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Now UK claims drastic drop in student dependents after visa crackdown

Now UK claims drastic drop in student dependents after visa crackdown
London: The UK government has welcomed a “significant fall” in the number of dependents, or close family members such as a spouse and children, accompanying overseas students after its crackdown on student visas from early this year.

In an update issued on Tuesday from January to March this year compared to the same period in 2023, the Home Office said that dependents had drastically fallen by almost 80 per cent amid over 26,000 fewer student visa applications made.

Indians have led the international student visa tally in recent years and these figures indicate that a downward trend noted earlier this year is likely to mean fewer Indian students choosing UK universities.

Under rules effective from January, most international students except those on research courses cannot bring along family members. They can no longer switch their visa either before completing their course, which the government claimed misused the student visa as a “backdoor” to work in the UK amid a wider Home Office clampdown on institutions “selling immigration not education.”

“Ever-spiralling numbers were eroding the British people’s confidence in our immigration system, burdening public services and suppressing wages,” said UK Home Secretary James Cleverly, whose office released the interim data to highlight the impact of his visa crackdowns.

“When I promised to deliver the largest-ever cut in legal migration, I knew we must also work to show the impact of our action as soon as practically possible. This data shows a significant fall in numbers on the first of our measures to take effect whilst underlining why necessary action was taken to cut unsustainable numbers of care worker dependents,” he said.

The minister said there is more still to come in the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak-led government plans to “cut migration.” According to official statistics from February, between 2019 and 2023 the number of Indians granted study visas rose by 85,849 – making up the highest cohort of international students in the UK. However, the 1,20,110 study visa grants to Indian nationals in 2023 was 14 per cent fewer than in 2022 – already indicating a downward trend amid the tightening visa norms.

The government’s review of the post-study Graduate Route, which allows overseas students to look for work and gain experience for up to two years after their degree, is widely expected to further restrict international students’ options in the UK when the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) submits its report later this month.

This, experts believe, will see more Indians turning away from applying to UK universities after topping the tally of this visa route since it was launched in 2021.

Under other measures, restrictions on foreign care workers from bringing dependents came into effect from March 11 – the impact for which the Home Office said is expected to become evident in future statistics.

While doctors and nurses remain able to bring close family members, the tougher measures are aimed at a crackdown on worker exploitation and abuse within the social care sector.

“There is clear evidence that care workers have been offered visas under false pretences, recruited into non-existent jobs or paid far below the minimum wage required for their work, exploiting them while undercutting British workers,” the Home Office said.

This week’s data also includes the final data before the general salary threshold for those arriving on the Skilled Worker visa rose from GBP 26,200 to GBP 38,700 earlier this month. Taken together, the Home Office says its visa crackdowns will mean that approximately 3,00,000 people arriving in the UK last year would no longer be able to.

Reducing legal and illegal migration is among the priorities for the Sunak-led government ahead of a general election, expected in the second half of the year. The latest statistics come as the government flew out its first failed asylum seeker to Rwanda under a voluntary scheme, which offers illegal migrants GBP 3,000 to willingly relocate to the east African country.

The compulsory deportation scheme for illegal migrants is also expected to be enforced soon after the controversial Safety of Rwanda Bill became an act this month after clearing Parliament.