Immigration and visa issues change regularly according to politics and public opinion, so changes to visa requirements are something you need to keep an eye out for if you’re looking to apply for a UK visa. While your rights don’t change if you’re already in the UK on a valid visa, when that visa expires, it may be more complicated to extend your visa if you want to.
Suella Braverman and her government want to show a tough stance towards immigrants and remove more simple routes into the UK to live and work such as becoming students or student dependents.
So, how has the Student visa changed and what do new students coming to the UK need to look out for? Let’s take a look.
What Are the New Changes to the Student Visa Regulations?
Previously students could bring immediate family members with them to the UK while they were studying so they could live together. This right is not being removed completely, but as of 1 January 2024, only certain students are permitted to bring family members.
If you will be studying a postgraduate research programme, you can bring your dependents with you to the UK. A postgraduate research programme includes:
- A doctorate e.g. PhD, DEng or other research-based doctorate
- A research-based higher degree including some master’s programmes
The course must be longer than 9 months and the student must be government-sponsored.
If you are already in the UK with your family on a course that began before 1 January 2024, these changes will not apply to you and your family can continue living with you until your visa expires. If your course began in September 2023 and you brought your family with you, you can also continue to live with them in the UK until your visa expires.
Once you graduate you can apply to stay in the UK as a Skilled Worker provided you can get a job offer within one of the eligible fields. Your family can then continue to live with you if they apply as your dependents. However, if you cannot get an eligible Work visa in the UK after graduating, your family will have to return to their home country.
If your course began in September 2023 and your family members were going to apply after you and join you at a later date, they only have until 1 January 2024 to submit their application and receive a response from the Home Office to be able to join you in the UK. If you have deferred the start of your course until January 2024 rather than September 2023 and do not meet the eligibility requirement, you will not be able to bring your close family members with you to the UK.
Can Your Family Members Visit You in the UK?
Going to study for a long time in another country can be daunting and it’s nice to have your loved ones close by to support you, so if these rules changes mean you can no longer bring your family with you as planned, you might be looking for alternative options.
The best option to bring your family members to visit you is the Standard Visitor visa. Not every national needs to apply for the Standard Visitor visa so you should check if it’s needed before applying, however, with or without it, your family members can stay in the UK for up to 6 months at one time. Together you will need to provide evidence that you will live together in suitable accommodation for the duration of their stay, as well as that they will have enough finances available for the course of their stay in the UK.
A 6-month visit isn’t as good as having your close family members with you permanently through your studies, but it can be worthwhile to spend time together if you are no longer able due to the new rule changes for students.
Which Family Members Can You Bring with You?
There are also restrictions on which family members can travel with you if you have a place on a research programme in the UK, they are known as your dependents.
Student visa holders studying postgraduate research programmes can only bring:
- Their spouse or civil partner
- Their unmarried, long-term partner
- Their child under 18 years old if they are not living independently
If your child is under 18 years old but they are married or living alone and working, they are not permitted to come to the UK with you.
You will need to provide evidence of your relationships with each of the close family members you bring with you to prove who you are to each other to the Home Office and justify your application. Marriage certificates or certificates of a civil partnership are suitable for couples, and birth certificates are suitable for children, however, proving your relationship with an unmarried partner can be more difficult.
You will need to show that you have been living with your partner for at least two years before your application. Photographs, cards, online messages and travel tickets do not count as valid evidence; you will have to show official documents with both your names on such as a joint bank statement, or a utility bill or a housing contract with both your names on.
What Rights Will Your Family Members Have in the UK?
Your dependents, your partner or child if they are over 16, can work and study whilst they are in the UK as student dependents. They can volunteer, work full-time, part-time and self-employed as they wish, except for working as a doctor or dentist in training.
If they choose to study, they will have to pay the necessary fees for overseas students. In some jobs and for some courses, they may need to obtain their own visa to undertake the job or course within the UK. Unfortunately, student dependents cannot switch to another visa from within the UK, they will have to return to their home country and apply for their own visa from there.
Having a job in the UK will give them independence while you complete your studies, as well as assist with the financial requirements that need to be met to show you and your dependents can be financially supported while you are all in the UK.
Financial Requirements Your Dependents Have to Meet
You and your dependents will need to meet certain financial requirements to be eligible for the student visa.
Your dependents must each show either:
- £845 a month for courses in London (for up to 9 months)
- £680 a month for courses outside London (for up to 9 months)
The money must be in your accounts for at least 28 days in the 31 days before the application is started. If you have financial support for your course or living costs from your government or a loan company, you should show these agreements instead with your and your dependents’ applications.
Can You Switch from a Student Visa to a Family Visa?
One of the ways being reported to help student visa holders stay in the UK after their graduation and stay together with their families is by switching to a Family visa, however, this has many requirements that will most likely not be met by students and their families.
To sponsor an application for a Family visa, your partner or child under 18 needs to have Irish or British citizenship, protected status or permanent residency. So if they’re simply in the UK on a student visa, they are not eligible to sponsor your visa.
Furthermore, you cannot apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK with a Student visa, even if you have spent 5 years in the UK. Your spouse would have to switch to a Graduate visa or an eligible work permit such as a Skilled Worker Visa and live on this visa for 5 years in the UK to be eligible for settlement, which would then entitle them to sponsor their dependents on a Family visa.
Need Visa Help? – Contact Synergy Immigration Solutions
Post-Brexit Britain is making life more complicated for the people who wish to come to the UK to live work or study, but there are still legal and viable routes into the UK with the right visas.
Fortunately, Synergy Immigration Solutions is here to help you apply for UK visas and get the best possible outcome. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.