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UK Government Tightens Family Visa Rules for International Students

UoA Students and Local MSP Hit Back Against Change

By Kirsten Koss

By Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Many international students will now be barred from bringing their families to the UK, due to a new law implemented by the UK government.

The UK government’s new visa rules which came into place on the 1st of January this year have changed the rules for postgraduate students wishing to bring their dependents – or their families – to the UK. Students must now also complete their courses before they are able to transfer to Skilled Worker visas.

Now, only post-graduate research students, including those undertaking PhDs will be able to take their families with them to the UK. The UK government says this new policy will bring net migration numbers to ‘sustainable levels’.

The government says that almost 500,000 international students were granted study visas in 2022, with the number of visas given to dependents of international students rising by more than 750% since 2019 to 136,000.

Of the 136,000 dependent visas issued, more than 40% were given to the families of Nigerian students despite being the third largest group of international students in the UK. According to data from Aberdeen City Council, more than 6.6% of migrant workers in the city are Nigerian, the largest group outside of the EU, suggesting that this policy could impact acutely on the city.

This new policy from the UK government comes as the University of Aberdeen has made several proposals to curb rising costs and falling student numbers. Most recently the proposal to rationalise the modern language offering at the university was blamed on dwindling enrolments. 

In a poll run by The Gaudie, 91% of students said they feared that the new visa rules would have an impact on the number of students choosing to study in the UK with 82% saying the UK government’s new policy is unfair. One student said:

“We need international students. It is only fair to let them bring families if they need to. We are already seeing the negative effects of reduced international student numbers on university finances across the UK, it is crazy to make the situation worse.”

Another said:

“This is just yet another thing contributing to the hostile environment international students face every day.”

In an exclusive statement given to The Gaudie, local MSP Kevin Stewart said:

“I have never shied away from expressing my disgust at the UK Government’s racist immigration policies – policies which do not align with the values we hold here in Aberdeen and wider Scotland.

“International students are a huge asset to the UK, both in terms of cultural and economic impact, and they should be treated as such.

“The Scottish Government will do all it can to make Scotland as attractive to international students as possible. However, while we have our hands tied behind our backs by a morally corrupt, incompetent UK Government there is only so much we can do.

“I firmly believe that the best way to support our universities and to restore our reputation as a welcoming, supportive environment for international students is for Scotland to gain her independence and re-join the European Union.”

The UK government says it will support universities across the country as the changes come into force. The longer-term impact of the policy on the university remains to be seen, however it seems as if the bill is proving unpopular with the university community.

The Gaudie has contacted the Students’ Union and local MP Kirsty Blackman for comment.


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