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26 May 2023

The latest immigration reforms – a further blow to the accessibility of the UK

3 mins

Tanya Goldfarb, Head of our Business Immigration team, comments on the recent appearance by the Home Secretary in Parliament as she reveals further measures to restrict overseas nationals from arriving in the UK.

With the rhetoric around immigration and ‘net migration figures’ continuing to dominate the headlines, the Home Secretary delivered a further blow to the accessibility of the UK, when she made a statement to Parliament on Tuesday 23 May 2023. Announcing a package of immigration reforms designed to help the current government deliver on its goal of reducing ‘net migration’, the Home Secretary introduced a series of restrictions aimed directly at international students and their families.

Currently, full-time students attending a course in the UK that lasts nine months or more may be accompanied by their immediate qualifying family members. From January 2024, most international students will not be permitted to bring their family members – an exception is made for those studying on postgraduate courses that are currently designated as research programmes.

The January 2024 changes also include:

  • Removing the ability to switch in-country from the student route into an approved work route before the studies are complete
  • Changes to the maintenance requirements for students – and further information is expected
  • A review of the activities of education agents and to undertake greater enforcement action on student visa applications

The announcement comes as the current government released its ‘net migration’ figures, and whilst some contributing factors are temporary, such as the Ukraine schemes, the numbers are apparently swelled by the rising numbers of dependents accompanying overseas national students to the UK; with the figure rising by 750% since 2019 (a figure of 136,000 from June 2021 -June 2022).

Whilst the government statement claims that it has ‘reaffirmed its commitment to the international education strategy which plays an important part in supporting the economy through the economic contribution students can bring to the UK’ and that it still wishes to ensure that the UK attracts the ‘brightest and the best to the UK’, these sweeping reforms will no doubt have a detrimental impact on education institutions across the UK, particularly for Masters and PhD programmes that are not designated as research programmes, and where it is more likely that a student may be accompanied to the UK by a family member.

This latest development is a short-sighted, knee-jerk reaction to a problem that does not exist. British universities rightfully embrace the inward draw of curious minds and world-class brains. International students and their families are a huge economic, intellectual and innovative benefit to the UK – shutting the door in this (and many other ways) only serves to ensure that the UK is less and less attractive to the brightest and best.

Further details on the changes can be found here

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