What Do the Changes to the UK International Visa Mean for You?
You may have heard some rumours around changes to the UK’s international student visa regarding bringing dependants with you when you study abroad. The government has now announced some new plans, so if you’re looking to study a postgraduate taught course in the UK after January 2024, you need to be aware of what the changes mean for you.
There were two parts to the announcement today and they come into effect from January 2024.
Firstly, if you are an international student on a non-research postgraduate course (so a postgraduate taught course for example), then you will no longer be able to bring family members to the UK with you during your studies. The term used is ‘dependants’ and includes partners and children.
Secondly, as an international student you won’t be able to switch from your study route visa to a work visa before completing your course. This means you won’t be able to drop out of your course and work somewhere in the UK. You must complete your course to be able to move onto the work visa.
What do we mean by ‘non-research programmes’ and 'research-based higher degrees'?
The announcement says that international students will no longer be able to bring dependants “unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes”. Research programmes include PhDs and MPhils, non-research programmes are mainly referring to taught Masters degrees (usually one year in the UK). You may have also seen the term 'research-based higher degrees' which refers to a postgraduate programme which has a "research component (including a requirement to produce original work), that is larger than any accompanying taught component when measured by student effort", so your degree must be a minimum of 51% research as confirmed by your university to sit in this category.
MRes programmes may be designated as either research or taught programmes depending on the institution. If you’ll be studying an MRes, check with your university to see whether these changes will impact you.
Does this affect PhD students?
Currently, we don’t believe so. As you would be on a research programme, your partners and children should still be able to apply to live in the UK during your course. You will need to provide documents proving your relationship and there is a fee of £490 for a visa. They’ll also need to pay an immigration health surcharge of between £470 and £624 a year.
If you’re looking at doing a 1+3 programme then please do check with your university as to how it will be classified (research or non-research) as there are taught elements in the first year for some of the courses.
I’m on a Graduate Route Visa, what does this mean for me?
The Graduate Route Visa, which allows international students to stay and work in the UK once they graduate, remains unchanged. There had previously been considerations around shortening it, but this has not been part of the announcement today.
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