The United Kingdom has put in place a law that effectively bans people from using a student visa as a backdoor route to work.
The new law, which takes effect from January 2024, prevents Nigerian students and other foreigners studying in the UK from bringing family as dependents except under specific circumstances.
The UK government says the intention is to control immigration rate, which is currently about one million.
Under the new rule, the UK will remove the permission for international students to switch from the student route into work routes before the end of their studies. This will prevent misuse of the visa system, government says.
“There will also be a review of the maintenance requirement for students and dependents and a crackdown on ‘unscrupulous’ education agents who make use of inappropriate applications to sell immigration, not education,” Sky News reports.
This change takes effect January 2024 to allow students starting courses in the UK time to plan to adapt to the new rules.
In a ministerial statement on Tuesday, Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said recent immigration figures had shown an “unexpected rise” in the number of dependants coming to the UK alongside international students.
According to Braverman, the increase was made after the government made its commitment to lower net migration, the UK media house reported.
Braverman said while the government’s strategy around international education “plays an important part in supporting the economy”, it should “not be at the expense of our commitment to the public to lower overall migration”.
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According to Sky News, Braverman said the package strikes the right balance between acting decisively on tackling net migration and protecting the economic benefits that students can bring to the UK.
A statement on the UK’s Home Office official site adds that the “New government restrictions to student visa routes will substantially cut net migration by restricting the ability for international students to bring family members on all but post-graduate research routes and banning people from using a student visa as a backdoor route to work in the UK.
“The ONS estimated that net migration was over 500,000 from June 2021 to June 2022. Although partly attributed to the rise in temporary factors, such as the UK’s Ukraine and Hong Kong schemes, last year almost half a million student visas were issued while the number of dependants of overseas students has increased by 750% since 2019, to 136,000 people.”
The Home Office also noted that this new rule is not at the expense of the government’s commitment to the public to lower overall migration and ensure that migration to the UK is highly skilled and provides the most benefit.
According to them, the proposal is aimed at allowing “the government to continue to meet its International Education Strategy commitments while making a tangible contribution to reducing net migration to sustainable levels. The government has also made clear that the terms of the graduate route remain unchanged.”
The Home Office also made it clear that “the proposals announced today do not detract from the success of the government’s International Education Strategy, including meeting the target to host 600,000 international higher education students studying in the UK each year by 2030, for two years running.”
Official statistics, which are due to be published this week, are expected to show that net migration has increased from 504,000 in the 12 months to June 2022 to more than 700,000 in the year to December, Sky News said.
According to data, foreign students brought 135,788 family members to Britain last year – nine times more than in 2019 while in 2022, 59,053 Nigerian students brought over 60,923 relatives.