New immigration rules: UK to ban foreign students from taking their families along

The new rule will not cover foreign PhD students

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The UK is set to introduce changes in its immigration rules which will stop scores of international students, including tens of thousands from India, from taking their families to the country with them. 

The norms will apply to overseas master's students at British universities. However, the new rule will not cover foreign PhD students, whose training often lasts between three to five years.

As per the current graduate visa rules, master’s students can bring their partners and children to the country with them. They can stay for 24 months after the students’ courses finish.

The move comes as the Rishi Sunak government battles record-high migration to the UK despite the Conservatives' election promise to bring the overall numbers down. As per the data by the Office for National Statistics, the net migration to the UK hit a record 504,000 between June 2021 and June 2022. This year's figures will be released on Thursday and it is expected that it would touch one million. Authorities cite the increase in foreign students and their dependents as a reason for the skyrocketing migration numbers.

Data reveals students have caused the sudden spurt in migration post Covid with a rise of 81 per cent since 2019. Students, especially those from Nigeria and India, have become more likely to bring family with them, with 135,788 visas granted to dependants in 2022, up from 16,047 in 2019, according to Financial Times.

A reason cited by the government authorities for the new curbs is that most of these courses only last for nine months and is unlikely to have a big effect on the UK's ability to attract global talent. The focus was on the dependants of master’s students.

Meanwhile, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which advises ministers on migration issues, will also seek to limit the time overseas students are allowed to remain in the country. MAC chairman professor Brian Bell told the Sunday Telegraph that the panel found it "unnecessary" for foreign students to be allowed to work in the UK for two years after completing their master’s degrees. 

There is also a plan to introduce a new immigration rule, as mooted by home secretary Suella Braverman, wherein only foreign workers who are expected to earn at least £26,000 (Rs 26,69,489.50) will be able to move to the UK. Though Braverman wanted to increase this threshold to £33,000 to match the average wage in the country, the Treasury overruled the proposal.

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