With effect from today, 1 January 2024, most international students are now no longer allowed to bring family members with them to the UK as dependants.
Changes to the UK Student route were announced in July 2023 and are now applicable to anyone applying for a UK Student visa on or after 1 January 2024, unless they are enrolling in a PhD or postgraduate research programme.
The Home Office has stated that the new rules are purposefully designed to reduce the number of family members coming to the UK as dependants of student visa holders.
Who do the new rules apply to?
The new restrictions on student visa dependants apply to courses that start on or after 1 January 2024.
Exemptions apply only where the student is a government-sponsored student starting a course that lasts longer than 6 months, or where the student is studying full-time on a postgraduate level course – either a PhD or other doctorate (RQF level 8), or a research-based higher degree.
Do the new rules apply to existing student dependants?
The new rules not apply to those already in the UK with valid leave as the dependant of a student visa holder. This means that it is possible to apply to extend a dependant visa, provided the main student visa holder began their course of study before 1 January 2024 and provided their visa remains valid.
The option to switch into a different visa category may also be worth considering. For example, student dependants may wish to switch to a work visa such as the Health & Care Worker or Skilled Worker visa. This will only be possible, however, if the individual is eligible for the route and meets the relevant eligibility requirements.
Also, there is a specific restriction in place preventing parents of student visa holders from being able to apply to switch from a dependant visa to a Skilled Worker visa.
Do the new rules apply to courses deferred to start in January 2024?
For students who were offered a place on a course for September 2023 but who deferred their course start until January 2024, the new rules will apply to their dependants.
Do the new rules apply if the student switches to the Graduate route?
When a student visa holder switches to the Graduate route, their family members can apply to stay in the UK as dependants, provided they have been living with the main student visa holder as dependants during the period of study.
As such, regardless of whether the course started before or after 1 January 2024, if the dependants have not lived with the main student visa holder in the UK during their studies, they will not be eligible to apply as dependants of a Graduate Route visa holder.
Do the new rules apply if the student switches to the Skilled Worker route?
Under the current rules for Skilled Worker dependants, applicants have to apply from overseas to join the main visa holder in the UK.
In light of the new rules, if you are exploring ways to come to the UK to join a family member, contact our experts for guidance on your options.
Last updated: 1 January 2024