The United Kingdom’s government is poised to roll out a new set of stringent immigration rules that will see foreign students prevented from bringing their family members to the country.
The move, which aims to address concerns over immigration and public resources, has sparked widespread debate among stakeholders in the education and immigration sectors.
Under the current immigration law in the UK, dependants are allowed to accompany their spouses or parent(s) who hold a valid student visa.
UK ministers are reportedly planning to announce a tightening of immigration rules on either Tuesday or Wednesday, as per the latest report.
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The proposed immigration clampdown will have an impact on all master’s students and select other post-graduate students. However, the ban will not be applicable to PhD students, who are considered highly skilled and enrolled in courses lasting between three to five years.
If implemented, this stricter policy will particularly affect a significant number of Nigerian students who have aspirations to pursue their postgraduate studies in the UK.
Nigerian students accounted for the largest increase in the number of dependents accompanying individuals with study visas in 2022.
In February, The Times (UK) reported that the UK government was considering the implementation of the ban due to a significant increase in the number of family members joining foreign students.
This rise in numbers raised concerns for both Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
Recent media reports have highlighted the Home Secretary’s contemplation of reforming the graduate visa route.
According to her proposal, foreign students would be required to secure a work visa by obtaining a skilled job or departing from the UK within six months after completing their studies.
Previously, foreign students were allowed to bring their spouses, partners, and dependent children to join them during their studies.
The decision to implement this ban comes as part of the government’s efforts to prioritize tighter immigration controls and preserve public resources.
The authorities argue that allowing family members of foreign students to reside in the country places an additional burden on social services, housing, and infrastructure.
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While supporters of the ban claim that it will help alleviate pressures on public resources and immigration systems, critics argue that it could have adverse consequences on international student recruitment and the overall competitiveness of UK universities.
They contend that the presence of family members often provides emotional support to students, enabling them to better adapt to life in a foreign country.
Furthermore, opponents argue that the ban may negatively affect the overall student experience, potentially leading to higher levels of stress and isolation among foreign students who are unable to have their loved ones close by.