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Visa crackdown causes plunge in family members of foreign students coming to UK

Measures introduced by Rishi Sunak have targeted overseas dependants to curb ‘ever-spiralling’ net migration figures

A crackdown on foreign students’ visas has slashed the number of dependants they are bringing into the UK by 80 per cent, Home Office figures show.

The data revealed that the number of dependants granted visas to join their student spouse or parent in the UK has fallen from 32,900 in the first quarter of 2023 to 6,700 in the same period this year.

The number of overseas students applying for visas also fell by 15 per cent, from 39,900 in the first quarter of 2023 to 35,000 in the same period in 2024.

It followed curbs introduced by Rishi Sunak that barred overseas students other than those doing PhD research work bringing dependants to join them in the UK.

Students can also no longer switch their visa before completing their course, preventing them from using the route as a back door to work in the UK.

Very few student dependants have applied this yearMonthly number of applicants for sponsored study visas

They are part of a package of measures aimed to reduce net migration by 300,000, after a record high of 745,000 in 2022. This was nearly three times the pre-Brexit level of 250,000 and blew apart the Conservative manifesto pledge to reduce net migration.

James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, said: “Ever-spiralling numbers were eroding the British people’s confidence in our immigration system, burdening public services and suppressing wages.

“When I promised to deliver the largest-ever cut in legal migration, I knew we must also work to show the impact of our action as soon as practically possible.

“This data shows a significant fall in numbers on the first of our measures to take effect whilst underlining why necessary action was taken to cut unsustainable numbers of care worker dependants.

“This does not mark the end of the road in our plan to cut migration, there is more still to come. Over the coming months, we will continue to show the pace of our progress as we deliver the control the public rightly expect.”

Suella Braverman, the former home secretary who introduced the curbs on students’ dependents, welcomed the reductions but said the Government needed to go further by scrapping the two year graduate visa route.

A crack down by the Home Office on bogus care homes is also believed to have contributed to a 25 per cent fall in the number of health and care visa applications, from 205,800 in the six months from April to September 2023 to 153,500 from October 2023 to March 2024.

 

This comprised 40,800 main applicants and 112,700 dependants, provisional Home Office data shows. It is likely to reduce further as a ban on care workers bringing dependants into the UK takes effect after being introduced on March 11. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals remain able to bring dependants.

Care providers acting as sponsors for migrants in England are also now required to register with the industry regulator, the Care Quality Commission, to crack down on worker exploitation and abuse within the sector.

The figures pre-date the increase in the new salary threshold for skilled workers from £26,200 to £38,700, which are part of measures designed by the Government to reduce net migration by 300,000.

Mr Sunak is expected to announce curbs on foreign student visas amid fears that the route is being used as a back door into claiming asylum.

The Prime Minister is expected to restrict access to the graduate visa route, which currently allows students to remain in the UK for up to two years after finishing their studies without the requirement to get a job.

The announcement is expected to come after the Migration Advisory Committee (Mac) completes a review of the graduate visa route on May 14.

Options understood to be under consideration include reducing the time a foreign graduate can stay in the UK without a skilled job to either six or 12 months.

The introduction of a two-year graduate visa was opposed by the Mac amid fears that it could be abused by students seeking to stay in the UK, allowing them to work in low-paid jobs or not take up a job at all.

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