New immigration restrictions in the UK will prevent foreign postgraduate students on non-research courses from bringing their family members with them.
The announcement comes just days before official statistics are expected to reveal a record-high of 700,000 legal migrants in the country this year. Last year, visas were granted to 135,788 dependants of foreign students, almost nine times the figure from 2019.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak informed ministers that this change, set to take effect in January 2024, will have a significant impact on reducing migration numbers.
However, it remains uncertain how it will affect official migration levels, as students and their families staying in the UK for less than a year are not counted.
In previous statements, the government stated that they were exploring various options to decrease migration numbers, without specifying an acceptable level.
The Conservative Party had previously pledged to bring net migration below 100,000 annually but abandoned the target ahead of the 2019 election due to repeated failures in meeting it.
Under the new policy, partners and children of postgraduate students, except those enrolled in research programs, will no longer be eligible to apply to live in the UK during the course.
The number of visas granted to dependants has been steadily increasing, particularly after Brexit and the introduction of study visa requirements for European Economic Area (EEA) students.
The figures also rose following the 2019 rule change that allowed foreign students to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to seek employment.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman described the unprecedented rise in dependants being granted visas and emphasized the need to tighten this route to reduce migration numbers while safeguarding the economic benefits that students bring to the UK.
Some divisions within the government considered going even further by potentially banning dependants of all postgraduate students, including those on research courses. Arguments were made that these students contribute more to the economy as they stay in the UK for longer periods.