UK Government Crack Down on Migrant Students
The UK Government have announced new restrictions to student visa routes, intended to significantly cut net migration.
In 2022, nearly 500,000 Student visas were issued. Meanwhile, the number of dependants of migrant students entering the UK has increased by 750% since 2019, now up to 136,000 people. In response, the UK Government has announced several restrictions to the Student visa route, with the stated aim of reducing net migration to the UK.
Currently, migrants on Student visas can switch to a work visa up to three months before the completion of their course. But, under the new rules, overseas students will be stopped from switching from the Student visa to work visas until they have completed their studies. This is part of a broader crackdown on overseas agencies who have been advising migrants on making what the Home Office has described as “inappropriate applications” for Student visas, in order to find a “backdoor” into the UK.
Because of the sharp growth in the number of dependants of migrant students entering the UK, restrictions are also set to be introduced on international students bringing family members with them to the UK. Again, this seems to be aimed at combatting the alleged abuse of the Student visa route – some of the aforementioned overseas agencies have apparently been advising migrants to enter into “sham marriages”, in order to enter the UK as the dependant spouse of a migrant with a Student visa. Suella Braverman, Home Secretary, did clarify that students on research programmes and PhD students would still be allowed to bring dependants with them.
These restrictions are set to be introduced for all students starting courses in the UK from January 2024 onwards. While these restrictions may well reduce Student visa-related migration figures, particularly for dependants, the overall impact on net migration into the UK remains to be seen. It should be noted that, in the vast majority of cases, migrant students enter the UK to study and then return home to their country of origin. A University of Oxford study from September 2022 found that 83% of non-EU students issued a study visa in 2016 had left the UK by 2021.
While they are in the UK, migrant students make a significant contribution to the economy – a report by London Economics found that the estimated total benefit to the UK economy from 2021/2022 first-year international students over the duration of their studies was £41.9 billion, with estimated costs as low as £4.4 billion. If these new restrictions have a deterrent effect on some migrant students coming to the UK, then there may be unintended knock-on effects on the British economy.
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