Recent changes to the UK’s student dependent visa have limited the opportunity for most dependants to accompany student visa holders as their partner or child.
In this guide, we explain the revised rules and eligibility requirements for dependant family members of international students, and detail the application process for those who may qualify as a dependant of a UK student visa holder.
Changes in UK student dependent visa eligibility
Home Office guidance issued in July 2023 states that from 1 January 2024, the student dependant visa is only open to qualifying relatives of international students who are government-sponsored or who are studying towards a PhD, another doctoral qualification, or a research-based higher degree.
Student dependants already in the UK by 17 July 2023 are not affected by the changes, and can still apply to extend their visa where eligible.
Child dependants born in the UK also remain exempt, as do international students on taught postgraduate courses that start before 1 January 2024 and government-sponsored international students.
What is the Student dependant visa UK?
A Student dependant visa UK is the permission needed for the spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner or any child under 18 to live with their partner or parent studying in the UK on the student route. The Student route is aimed at foreign nationals who are subject to UK immigration control but who wish to study with a licensed sponsor on a course of further or higher education including, for example, a degree level or postgraduate course.
A partner or child may apply at the same time as the principal applicant or, where they are looking to join the primary visa-holder once that person is in the UK, at a later stage.
If you are applying as the dependant of a student who has already been granted permission to be in the UK, your leave should be granted in line with the same end date. If you are applying at the same time as your partner or parent, your visa should be subject to the same period of admission. In most cases, this will be for length of their course, plus 1 month before the start date and 4 months after the end date. You will also be permitted to engage in paid employment while in the UK, as well as part-time or full-time study.
Who is eligible for a Student dependant visa?
To qualify as a student dependant, you will need to meet the following:
- Student course requirement
- Relationship requirement, and
- Financial requirement
Student course requirement
After 1 January 2024
From 1 January 2024, only those starting a PHD or other doctorate (RQF level 8), or a research-based higher degree, will be able to bring their dependants with them to the UK.
These are more stringent rules, designed by the UK Government to restrict the ability for overseas students to bring family members on all but post-graduate research routes.
Pre 1 January 2024
Prior to 1 January 2024, to qualify as a dependant on the student route, your partner or parent must be either:
- a government-sponsored student starting a course lasting longer than 6 months
- a full-time student on a postgraduate level course (at RQF level 7 or above) lasting 9 months or longer at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance.
Relationship requirement for student dependants
In addition to the student course requirement, you will also need to meet a qualifying relationship requirement. The nature of this requirement will depend on whether you are applying as the partner or dependent child of the Student.
If you are applying as the partner of someone on the Student route, you must either be in a marriage or civil partnership that is recognised by law, or have been in a relationship similar to a marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years when you apply. Additionally:
- you and your partner must both be aged 18 or over on the date of application
- you must not be so closely related to your partner that you would be legally prohibited from marrying or entering into a civil partnership
- any previous marriage, civil partnership or durable relationship with another person must have permanently broken down
- you and your partner must have met in person
- your relationship with your partner must be genuine and subsisting.
If you are applying as the dependent child of someone on the Student route, or the child of the Student’s partner, you must be under the age of 18, with suitable arrangements in place for your care and accommodation in the UK if you are under the age of 16. If you are aged 16 or over on the date of application, you must not be leading an independent life.
Additionally, your parents must each be applying at the same time on the Student route or have permission to be in the UK, other than as a visitor, unless the parent with permission as a Student or as the partner of a Student is your sole surviving parent or has sole responsibility for your upbringing. Alternatively, there would need to be sufficient evidence of serious and compelling reasons to grant you entry clearance or permission to stay with the parent who has permission as a Student or as the partner of a Student.
Financial requirement for student dependants
If are you applying for entry clearance or permission to stay, where you have been in the UK for less than 12 months, you must meet the financial requirement. This means that you must be able to show the following funds for a total of 9 months, or the full period of permission applied for by the Student, whichever is shorter:
- where your partner or parent is studying in London: £845 per month
- where your partner or parent is studying outside London: £680 per month.
These funds are additional to the funds required for your partner or parent to meet their own financial requirement, and in addition to the funds to meet the financial requirement for any other dependant applying at the same time or already in the UK on this route.
If you applying to switch to the Student route from a different route and have already been living in the UK with permission for 12 months or longer on the date of your application, you will meet the financial requirement and do not need to show funds.
How to apply for a Student dependant visa
You can apply for a Student dependent visa from both outside or inside the UK. You must apply online, paying the relevant fee and immigration health surcharge at the same time.
As part of your application when applying from overseas, you will need to schedule an appointment at an overseas visa application centre (VAC) to enrol your biometric information. When applying to switch from a different visa inside the UK, you will instead need to schedule an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point, although you may be eligible to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to prove your identity, where you will be told if this is the case when you apply.
You will also need to submit a number of documents in support, including a valid passport or other travel document proving your identity, as well as proof that you meet the relationship and financial requirement, where applicable. Additional documentation may be needed depending on your circumstances. For example, if a child is born in the UK to a Student or their partner, an application for a Student dependant visa would need to be supported by a full UK birth certificate showing the names of both parents.
How much does a Student dependant visa cost?
The fee to apply for a Student dependant visa from overseas visas is £363, while the cost to switch to this visa category from inside the UK is £490. You will also be liable to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge per year of leave to be able to access the UK’s National Health System. The total healthcare surcharge will be payable in advance, calculated according to the length of your visa.
How long does a Student dependant visa take?
Having applied from overseas and attended a VAC appointment to enrol your biometric information, you should get a decision within 3 weeks. When applying from inside the UK, and having attended any UKVCAS appointment, a decision can take up to 8 weeks.
If a partner and/or dependent child are applying at the same time as the principal applicant on the Student route, the applications should be considered together. This means that you should receive a decision on each visa at the same or similar time.
Can you apply to extend a Student dependant visa?
There may be a number of scenarios in which your partner or parent needs to extend their stay in the UK, including where they need to stay longer to complete their studies or they would like to go on to study on a new course. This means that an application will not only need to be made to extend their permission to stay in the UK, but also for you as the partner or dependant child of that Student. This is because your dependant visa will not extend automatically in line with any extension granted to your partner or parent.
To be eligible for a visa extension as either a partner or dependent child, you must be in the UK with valid permission as a dependant on the Student route. You must also continue to meet the relevant requirements as a partner or dependent child, although you may be able to apply for an extension of stay even if you have turned 18 during your stay.
You can apply at the same time as your partner or parent, or at any time prior to expiry of your existing visa, paying the relevant fee and healthcare surcharge. The cost to apply to extend your visa is £490, plus an additional £470 for each year of stay. If your application is granted, the length of your visa will be extended in line with that of the Student.
Can you switch from a Student dependant visa to another visa?
Once the primary visa-holder has completed their course of study, and where they do not intend to progress their studies further, they may want to stay in the UK to look for work.
In many cases, having successfully completed their course of studies in the UK, your partner or parent can apply to switch from their Student visa to a Graduate visa. This will allow them to either look for work or undertake work in the UK for a period of at least 2 years. You will also be able to apply to switch into the Graduate route, provided you meet the relevant requirements as the dependant of the principal applicant.
The Graduate route is a flexible work route aimed at recent graduates who have completed a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree. If approved on this route, this will allow you and your partner or parent to stay in the UK for a period of 2 years, or 3 years for PhD graduates.
You and your partner or parent must apply for a Graduate visa prior to expiry of your existing Student (dependant) visa, again each paying the relevant fee and healthcare surcharge. The Graduate (dependant) visa does not provide a path to settlement, but it may be possible to again apply to switch to a different route before your visa expires, such as the Skilled Worker route. On the Skilled Worker route, you and your partner or parent may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after a period of 5 years.
It may also be open to the partners of primary visa-holders on either the Student, Graduate or Skilled Worker routes to apply for a work visa in their own right.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration advisers, supporting individuals with all types of Home Office applications including dependant visas and indefinite leave to remain. If you have a question about a student dependant visa or your UK immigration status, contact us.
Student dependent FAQs
Can I take my dependents to UK with Student visa?
A partner or dependent child can accompany or join you in the UK on the Student route, provided you are studying on a qualifying course and they meet the relationship requirement. They may also need to meet a financial requirement.
How long is a Student dependent visa UK?
A Student dependant visa will typically be granted in line with the Student’s own permission. In most cases, this will be for length of their course, plus 1 month before the start date and 4 months after the end date.
Are dependents allowed on Student visa?
For dependants to join their partner or parent in the UK on the Student route, the principal applicant or primary visa-holder must be a government-sponsored student starting a course that lasts longer than 6 months or a full-time postgraduate student.
What are the new rules for Dependent visa in UK?
Under the more stringent requirements due to come into force on 1 January 2024, only overseas students starting a PHD or other doctorate, or a research-based higher degree, will be able to bring dependants with them to the UK.
Last updated: 18 September 2023