Overseas students apart from postgraduates on research programmes will be banned from bringing dependents to the UK from January 2024 as the Government attempts to curb net migration.
The package, announced ahead of figures on Thursday which are expected to show net migration running at record levels, amounts to the “single biggest tightening measure a government has ever done”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told his Cabinet that around 136,000 visas were granted to dependents in 2022, an eightfold increase from 16,000 in 2019.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman told MPs: “This package strikes the right balance between acting decisively on tackling net migration and protecting the economic benefits that students can bring to the UK.
“Now is the time for us to make these changes to ensure an impact on net migration as soon as possible. We expect this package to have a tangible impact on net migration.
“Taken together with the easing of temporary factors, we expect net migration to fall to pre-pandemic levels in the medium term.”
The package strips international students of the right to bring dependents unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes and removes the ability for international students to switch out of the student visa route into work before their studies have been completed.
The measures also include reviewing the maintenance requirements for students and dependents and steps to clamp down on “unscrupulous education agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration, not education”, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.
Alongside that there will be better communication around the immigration rules to the higher education sector and to international students, and “improved and targeted enforcement activity”.
Related: Just 9% of Britons say Brexit more of a success than failure, poll suggests