Credit: David MacKelvey

Students banned from bringing dependents to UK

By Odhran Gallagher

Westminster legislation banning foreign students from bringing dependents to the UK has come into force, affecting students at the University.

New UK government legislation has come into effect which bans certain foreign students from bringing dependents with them to the UK. International students starting courses in the UK from 1 January will no longer be able to bring family members with them. However, some exemptions remain for postgraduate research students and courses with government-funded scholarships. 

These changes to the UK’s asylum system were first announced in May 2023 by the then Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who accused dependents of foreign students of “piggybacking” on student visas and “not contributing to growing our economy”. 

The current home secretary James Cleverly said in response to the legislation: “This government is delivering on its commitment to the British public to cut migration. We have set out a tough plan to rapidly bring numbers down, control our borders and prevent people from manipulating our immigration system, which will come into force throughout this year.

“Yesterday, a major part of that plan came into effect, ending the unreasonable practice of overseas students bringing their family members to the UK. This will see migration falling rapidly by the tens of thousands and contribute to our overall strategy to prevent 300,000 people from coming to the UK.”

According to a 2023 report by Erudera, there are over 80,000 international students currently studying in Scotland, with the University of Glasgow holding the second highest share of this number. Moreover, according to the University’s own statistics, there were over 12,000 students enrolled for the 2022/23 academic year who could be affected by this legislation.

Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland said in response to the UK government:

“After months of speculation, we have clarity from the UK Government. We welcome the commitment to retaining the post-study work visa which benefits both students and employers. It also helps retain talent in Scotland which is critical given our demographic challenges.

“Less welcome is the decision to restrict visas to the dependents of international students below PhD level. It will be very important that the UK Government works with the sector, across the UK, to first understand and then reflect on the likely impact of these changes on universities and their wider communities.

“International students make an invaluable contribution to Scotland, not just our universities and the wider economy. Last week, research showed the economic benefit of international students in Scotland is £4.75 billion and there exists broad public and political support for international students coming to Scotland.

“Ultimately, talent knows no borders. We want to have the sharpest, most inquisitive minds learning, teaching and researching here in Scotland. That benefits not just their university, but the nation and the world as a whole. International students need to know they are always welcome in Scotland.”


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