How will new immigration rules affect international students and their families studying in the UK?

On 17th July 2023, the Home Office made some changes to immigration rules, the most significant of which is the restriction on overseas students bringing family members to the UK.


However, when the news was released in May, the Home Office announced the scheme expected to be implemented in January next year.


Unexpectedly, yesterday’s Immigration Rules Update document announced without warning that the restriction on overseas students bringing family members had begun.

Today’s post will focus on how this update to the immigration rules will affect overseas students.


Restrictions on student visa holders bringing family members to the UK.


The UK is home to several world-renowned institutions of higher education. Hence, so many international students from all over the world come to the UK every year to further their studies.


Students of all ages come to the UK for higher education, with many returning to study after starting a family.


To allow students to combine family life with study, the UK government has previously allowed holders of long-term student visas to bring their spouses and children to the UK.


Whilst student visa holders are subject to restrictions on working hours and other business activities, their spouses are free to work and do business in the UK whilst on a Dependant visa.


As a result, more and more people are using the combination of a student visa and a Dependant visa as a transition for the whole family to immigrate to the UK, which has led to the student visa being gradually abused and losing its original purpose.


This immigration rule update is also the result of the UK government’s desire to stop the abuse of student visas and return them to their original purpose of serving academic research.


Overall, the Home Office has not applied a blanket rule on overseas students bringing family members with them. Instead, they have increased the requirements for overseas students who can bring family members with them, depending on the circumstances.

Currently (after 17th July) there are specific conditions for students to be able to bring their families to the UK:


– Government Scholarship students studying a programme of 6 months or more

– Full-time students studying a postgraduate or above programme (RQF level 7 or above) of 9 months or more.


Please note that the requirements will remain in effect until the end of this year, except for government scholarship students who will not be affected. Additionally, restrictions for students pursuing postgraduate or higher-level courses will be further strengthened starting from January 1, 2024.


Only the following two types of postgraduate or above courses commencing after 1/1/2024 will be allowed to bring dependants:


– PHD doctoral degree or other doctoral degree (RQF level 8)

– Research-based Higher Degree (RQF 8)


This update to the immigration rules is only for upcoming dependents of students, and applications for dependents of students submitted before 17 July will be reviewed under the previous rules.

Pathway requirements added for a student visa to other work/business visas.


Some new prerequisites for student visas to be converted to other work/business visas have been added to the Immigration Rules Update published on the 17th.


The work/business visas affected are:

– Skilled worker visas

– Visas within the Global Business Mobility Programme

– Tier 2 Minister of Religion Visa

– Overseas Chief Representative Visa

– British Ancestor Visa

– Global Talent Visa

– High Potential Talent Visa

– Expansion Worker Scale-up Visa

– Innovation Founder Visa

– International Athlete Visa

– Various short-term work visas, etc.

There were no special requirements in the previous immigration rules for converting a student visa to another work/business visa.


If the student found a company with employer sponsorship qualification that is willing to sponsor him/her for the corresponding work visa or fulfilled the eligibility criteria for a particular business visa, then the student could convert to the corresponding visa at any time during his/her student visa.


However, with effect from yesterday (17 July), one of the following conditions must be met to be able to convert from a student visa to a work/business visa:


(a)The applicant must have completed the course of study for which the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies was assigned (or a course to which ST 27.3 of Appendix Student applies); or


(b) Condition B:

(i) The applicant must be studying a full-time course of study at degree level or above with a higher education provider which has a track record of compliance; and


(c) Condition C:

(i) The applicant must be studying a full-time course of study leading to the award of a PhD with higher education provider which has a track record of compliance.

(ii) The Certificate of Sponsorship in SW 1.2(d) must have a start date no earlier than 24 months after the start date of that course.”.


The requirements for Global Talent Visa, High Potential Talent Visa and Innovative Founder Visa are more stringent, and only applicants who fulfil point 1 or 3 of the above conditions can complete the conversion from student visa to these 3 types of visas.

These are the highlights of this immigration rule update on the overseas student community.


There is no restriction on international students to stay in the UK after graduation. If they cannot immediately convert from a student visa to a work or business visa, they can still obtain a two-year stay on a Graduate Visa and look for work opportunities in the UK.


These measures are to prevent the misuse of student visas, work, or business visas, and to regulate the influx of immigrants to the UK. Additionally, they aim to enhance the overall quality of immigration.


Students undertaking advanced academic education and research in the UK will still be able to enjoy the right to bring their dependants with them, and the threshold between student and work/business visas will go some way to improving the quality of professional or business immigration.

Under the current criteria, if you wish to save time by completing a seamless transition from a student visa to a work or business visa to achieve permanent residence, we recommend you start your immigration pathway planning as early as possible.


The professional immigration team at Chan Neill Solicitors can provide you with the most suitable immigration solution based on your background. If you require any assistance, kindly reach out to us.