Changes to the UK’s student dependent visa were announced in 2023, designed by the UK Government to remove the ability of international students to be accompanied by family members, except in limited circumstances.
In this guide, we explain the revised rules and eligibility requirements, and detail the application process for those who do qualify as a dependant of a UK student visa holder.
UK student dependent visa eligibility
Home Office guidance issued in July 2023 states that the student dependent 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. The rules took immediate effect on 17 July 2023, and apply to courses starting from 1 January 2024.
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 dependent visa?
The student visa is the points-based immigration route for international students, aged 16 or over, looking to undertake a course of further or higher education in the UK, typically full-time — such as a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a PhD — and are sponsored by a UK education provider that holds a valid student sponsor licence.
In limited cases, the student visa holder is allowed to be joined in the UK by a dependent partner or dependent children under the student dependent visa route. The visa is only open to dependents of student visa holders who are studying on postgraduate courses designated as research programmes.
Students in the UK studying for a period of less than 6 months cannot bring dependants to the UK. Child students also cannot bring dependants with them.
There are various eligibility requirements when applying as the dependent partner or dependent child of a student already in the UK or looking to come to the UK, including:
- A student course requirement
- A relationship requirement
- A financial requirement
- An age and care requirement (for dependent children).
Student course requirement
Under the student course requirement, the applicant must be the partner or child of:
- a government-sponsored student who has, or is seeking, permission to study in the UK on a full-time course of 6 months or more;
- a full-time student who has, or is seeking, permission to study a postgraduate course of 9 months or more at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance;
- a student who has permission on what’s known as the Doctorate Extension Scheme;
- a student who has, or within the last 3 months has had, permission to study in the UK on a full-time course of at least 6 months, and is seeking permission to study on a full-time course of at least 6 months, where either the partner or child already has, or within the last 3 months has had, permission as a
- dependent partner or child, or the child was born since the student’s last grant of permission where applying at the same time.
Alternatively, if the applicant is a child who doesn’t fall into one of these categories, they must meet one of the following requirements instead:
- they must’ve been born during the student’s current period of permission to study a full-time course of at least 6 months and they’re applying for permission during that period;
- where the student has permission to re-sit exams or repeat a module of a full-time course of at least 6 months, they must’ve either been born during the student’s original period of permission or during the period granted for re-sitting exams or to repeat a module;
- they must’ve been born no more than 3 months after expiry of the student’s most recent permission and be making an application for entry clearance within 6 months of expiry of their parent’s most recent permission.
Under the relationship requirement for the dependent partner of a student:
- the applicant must be either the partner of a student or partner of a person applying at the same time as a student;
- the applicant and their student partner must be aged at least 18 at the time of applying;
- the applicant and their partner must be either married or in a civil partnership or, instead, be living together in a relationship resembling a marriage or civil partnership for at least the last 2 years; any previous relationship must have permanently broken down; and they must not be so closely related that they wouldn’t
- have been allowed to marry in the UK;
- the relationship between the applicant and their student partner must be both genuine and subsisting, and they must intend to live together during their time in the UK.
Under the relationship requirement for the dependent child of a student:
- the applicant must be the child of a parent who already has permission or is being granted permission as either a student or partner of a student at the same time;
- the applicant’s parents must each be applying at the same time as the applicant or have permission to be in the UK, unless the parent is the sole surviving parent, has sole responsibility for the applicant’s upbringing, or there are serious and compelling reasons to grant the applicant permission to be with or stay with the parent;
- if the applicant is a child born in the UK to a student visa holder or student partner, they must provide a full UK birth certificate showing the names of both parents.
Under the financial requirement for the dependent partner or child of a student, the applicant or their partner/parent, must have a minimum level of funds, to cover either a maximum period of 9 months or the period of permission applied for, whichever is shorter.
If the student is studying in London, the funds required are £845 per month. If the student is studying outside the London area, the funds required are £680 per month. These funds must be in addition to the funds required for the student to meet the financial requirement, when applying at the same time. These funds are also payable for each person applying at the same time or already in the UK as a dependent partner or dependent child.
Unless the applicant is relying on government sponsorship or financial aid from an international scholarship agency that covers the living costs of both the applicant and student, they must show that they’ve held the required level of funds for a period of 28 days.
If the funds held in the applicant’s account at the date of the visa decision fall substantially below the level of funds required under the rules, the case worker making the decision must be satisfied that the spent funds have been used in part to pay a deposit for accommodation.
Age and care requirements
Under the age and care requirements for dependent children, the child must be under 18, unless last granted permission as a dependent child of someone who has permission as a student or as a partner of a student. This means that a dependent child over the age of 18 can apply for an extension, provided they’re already in the UK as a dependant.
If the dependent child is aged 16 or 17, they must not be leading an independent life. If aged under 18, there must also be suitable arrangements for their UK care and accommodation.
Applying for a student dependent visa
To apply for a student dependent visa, whether the application is for entry clearance or permission to stay, the applicant will need to submit an online application, submit their supporting documentation and pay the relevant fee.
As part of their application, they may also need to have their fingerprints and photograph taken at an overseas visa application centre or at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to enable them to obtain a biometric residence permit.
Student dependent visa UK: what documents are needed in support?
When applying for a student dependent visa, the partner or child applying will need various documents in support of their application, including:
- a current passport or another travel document to prove their identity and nationality
- where applicable, proof they’ve got enough money to support themselves during their stay
- proof of their relationship with the primary student visa holder, such as a birth certificate, or marriage or civil partnership certificate
- a valid tuberculosis (TB) test certificate, if resident in a country where a TB test is needed.
If applying from a country listed under the ‘differential evidence requirement’, and applying at the same time as the student, the applicant won’t need to prove that they have money to support themselves. However, the applicant may need additional documents depending on their circumstances, for example, evidence that the relationship with their student partner is genuine and subsisting, or evidence of dependence for children aged 16 or over.
Any documents needed in support of the application can be uploaded into the online service or scanned at a visa application centre or UKVCAS appointment.
Applying for a student dependent visa from within the UK
The partner or child of a student can apply from within the UK, provided they’ve not been in the UK under a visitor visa; a short-term student visa; a parent of a child student visa; a seasonal worker visa; or a domestic worker in a private household visa.
They must also not fall for refusal for a visa under any of the general grounds for refusal, for example, they’ve been in the UK outside the Immigration Rules, such as if they’ve overstayed.
However, if the dependent partner or dependant child of a student is applying for permission to stay in the UK, and has been living in the UK with permission for at least 12 months, they’ll meet the financial requirement and won’t need to show funds.
How much is a student dependent visa?
The cost of applying for a student dependent visa from outside the UK is £348, and £475 from within the UK, plus an additional £19.20 to have their biometric information taken.
The applicant will also need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge as part of their application to enable them to use the NHS during their stay in the UK.
Student dependent visa processing times
When applying for entry clearance as the dependent partner or dependent child of a student, a decision will usually be made within around 3 weeks. When applying to switch to this category of visa from within the UK, a decision will usually take around 8 weeks. In some cases, however the applicant may be able to pay for a faster decision under a priority service.
If the application for a student dependent visa is successful, the dependent partner will be granted permission ending on the same date as their student partner’s permission. For a dependent child, the duration of their visa will run until whichever of their parents’ permission ends first or, where only one parent is present in the UK, that parent’s permission.
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 visa FAQs
Can student take dependent to UK?
Following a change in the rules, for courses starting from 1 January 2024, only students on postgraduate courses designated as research programmes are allowed to bring family members with them to the UK.
What are the requirements for dependent visa in UK?
To be eligible for a student dependent visa, you would need to meet the student course requirement, relationship requirement, financial requirement, and age and care requirement for dependent children.
Last updated: 18 July 2023