• Thursday, July 25, 2024

Education

UK reports sharp drop in student dependents after visa crackdown

There has been an almost 80 per cent decrease in dependents from January to March this year compared to the same period in 2023, alongside over 26,000 fewer student visa applications.

These numbers also suggest a potential decline in Indian students opting for UK universities. (Representational image from iStock)

By: Vivek Mishra

The UK government has lauded a “significant drop” in dependents accompanying overseas students following its recent crackdown on student visas.

According to the Home Office, there has been an almost 80 per cent decrease in dependents from January to March this year compared to the same period in 2023, alongside over 26,000 fewer student visa applications.

Indians have been the leading recipients of international student visas in recent years, but these numbers suggest a potential decline in Indian students opting for UK universities.

Under new regulations effective from January, most international students, except those on research courses, are no longer permitted to bring family members.

Additionally, they are barred from switching their visa before completing their course, a measure aimed at curbing visa misuse for employment purposes.

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

“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 dependents.”

According to official statistics from February, between 2019 and 2023, the number of Indians granted study visas rose by 85,849. However, the 1,20,110 study visa grants to Indian nationals in 2023 was 14 per cent fewer than in 2022 – indicating a downward trend amid tightening visa norms.

The government’s review of the post-study Graduate Route, which allows overseas students to look for work and gain experience for up to two years after their degree, is expected to further restrict international students’ options in the UK when the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) submits its report later this month. This is likely to see more Indians turning away from applying to UK universities after topping the tally of this visa route since it was launched in 2021.

Under other measures, restrictions on foreign care workers from bringing dependents came into effect from March 11. While doctors and nurses remain able to bring close family members, the tougher measures are aimed at a crackdown on worker exploitation and abuse within the social care sector.

This week’s data also includes the final data before the general salary threshold for those arriving on the Skilled Worker visa rose from GBP 26,200 to GBP 38,700 earlier this month.

Taken together, the Home Office says its visa crackdowns will mean that approximately 3,00,000 people arriving in the UK last year would no longer be able to.

Reducing legal and illegal migration is among the priorities for the Sunak-led government ahead of a general election, expected in the second half of the year.

(PTI)

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