International students who come to study in the UK will no longer be able to bring family with them except under specific circumstances in a government bid to bring immigration down.
International students will no longer be able to bring dependants with them unless they are on postgraduate courses that are currently designated as research programmes.
The package will remove the ability for international students to switch out of the student route and into work routes before their studies have been completed.
As well as removing this right, there will also be a review of the maintenance requirement for students and dependents and a crackdown on “unscrupulous” education providers “who make use of inappropriate applications to sell immigration, not education”.
The changes will come into effect for students starting their courses from January 2024 in order to allow future international students time to plan ahead.
The government has come under pressure over migration figures and there have been reports of splits in the cabinet over the issue.
Official statistics due to be published later this week are expected to show that net migration has increased from 504,000 in the 12 months to June 2022 to more than 700,000 in the year to December.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The prime minister reiterated his commitment to getting the numbers down and said the statistics showed a recent rise in the number of dependents coming to the UK alongside international students. Around 136,000 visas were granted to dependents in 2022 – an eightfold increase from 2019.”
In a written ministerial statement on the issue, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said recent immigration figures had shown an “unexpected rise” in the number of dependants coming to the UK alongside international students.
Ms Braverman said the increase was made after the government made its commitment to lower net migration.
“This does not detract from the considerable success that the government and the higher education sector have had in achieving the goals from our international education strategy, meeting our target to host 600,000 international students studying in the UK per year by 2030, for two years running, and earlier than planned – a success story in terms of economic value and exports,” she said.
However, she said that while the government’s strategy “plays an important part in supporting the economy”, it should “not be at the expense of our commitment to the public to lower overall migration”.
“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,” she said.
“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.”