Predicting the Impact of the UK’s Dependents Policy Change on International Students

Impact of the UK's Dependents Policy Change on International Students

Predicting the Impact of the UK’s Dependents Policy Change on International Students

The UK government’s recent policy change to restrict the entry of dependents for international students is a major development that will significantly impact the community. According to the new policy that will come into effect in January 2024, only students of research-based postgraduate programs can bring their dependents with them to the UK.

In this write-up, we will try to predict the impact of the UK’s Dependents Policy Change on international students. So, let’s get right in.

Historical Background of the UK’s Dependants Policy

The UK’s Dependent Policy is an immigration policy that governs the entry and stay of dependant of UK visa holders. Dependents are spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, and children. The policy is designed to make sure that dependents can support themselves financially and that they do not become a burden on the UK taxpayer.

UK visa rules for international students have been in place for many years, but there have been a number of changes over time. In the past, there were fewer restrictions on the types of dependants who could enter the UK and the length of time they could stay. However, in recent years, the government has tightened the rules in an effort to reduce immigration.

Previous Rules and Regulations for International Students and Their Dependants

Before the recent UK immigration policy changes, international students were allowed to bring their spouses and civil partners to the UK with them. They were also allowed to bring their children if they were under 18 and financially dependent on the student.

On top of that, there were no restrictions on the types of study programs international students had to be enrolled in to bring their dependants with them. Dependants can also work and study in the UK during their stay.

Key Changes in the New Dependants Policy

Key Changes in the New Dependants Policy

The new UK Dependants Policy will make it significantly more difficult for international students to bring their dependants with them to the UK.

Following are the latest UK dependants policy changes:

  • Only research-based postgraduate program students can bring their dependents to the UK.
  • Dependents will no longer be able to work or study in the UK.
  • The new dependant policy will apply to all new international student visa applicants from January 2024.

Here is a comparison between old and new visa rules according to the UK immigration policy updates:

Old RulesNew Rules
International students of all levels could bring their dependents to the UK if their course duration was six months or above. Dependents were able to study and work in the UK during their stay.Only postgraduate students in research-based programs can bring their dependents with them. Dependents are no longer able to work or study in the UK.

Projected Impact on International Students

Financial Implications

The impact of UK policy on international students will have various financial implications, which could lead to increased financial costs. For example, students may need to pay for childcare or eldercare in their home country, or they may need to travel more frequently to visit their families.

Additionally, the new policy could make it more difficult for international students to find work in the UK, as dependents will not be able to work. This could reduce students’ income and make it more difficult to afford tuition fees and living costs.

Emotional and Psychological Effects

There can be emotional and psychological effects of UK immigration changes on student life, which will hurt the well-being of international students. They can feel isolated, homesick, and lonely without their families, causing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

On top of that, students who won’t be able to bring their families with them to the UK may find it more challenging to integrate into British society. It can cause academic difficulties and a lower overall quality of life.


Possible Changes in Student Demographics

Countries with many students studying in the UK are most likely to be affected by the new dependent policy. It can bring significant demographic changes in UK international students community. Countries most affected by UK policy include China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, as they have the largest number of students in the UK.

On the other hand, countries with lower proportionate students will suffer less because of the new rules. For example, the United States, Canada, and Australia.

The new UK student visa trends will also likely shift the student age range and international students’ study level. You will see a decrease in international students with dependants at the undergraduate level. That’s because undergraduate students can no longer bring their families with them.

Feedback from Universities and Educational Institutions

UK Universities response to Dependants Policy has mainly been critical, arguing that it will become more difficult for them to attract and retain international students.

In a statement by Universities UK, the representative body for UK universities stated that the new policy was “disappointing and risked undermining the government’s target to grow education exports to £35 billion by 2030.”

They have also warned that the new UK international student recruitment strategies will disproportionately affect female students and students from some specific countries.

In response to the new policy, UK universities are adopting several new strategies to attract and retain international students. Such as:

  • Offering more scholarships and financial aid to international students.
  • Bringing new programs and services that are specifically designed for international students.
  • Partnering with foreign universities to make it easier for international students to transfer to UK universities.
  • Working with the UK government to lobby for changes to the Dependants Policy.

Economic Implications for the UK

International students are a major source of income for the UK economy. In the 2021-22 financial year alone, international students spent £42 billion in the UK. (Source: The Guardian)

The new Dependants Policy will lead to a decrease in international student spending in the UK. There will be an economic impact of UK immigration changes. This is because students who cannot bring their families to the UK are likely to spend less money.

For example, students with families may need to send money back to their home country to support their families. Additionally, students with families may be less likely to travel around the UK or to eat out at restaurants. So, the UK international student spending trends will completely shift.

Impact on Local Businesses and Housing Markets

International students have a significant impact on local businesses and housing markets. They are a primary source of customers for many local businesses like restaurants, cafes, and shops. Many international students also rent and buy property in the UK.

UK local business and immigration have a positive relationship. However, the new Dependants Policy will negatively impact local businesses and housing markets. It is due to the fewer international students and their family members in the UK, and they will spend less money.


Comparisons with Other Countries’ Policies

The United Kingdom’s new Dependants Policy is more restrictive than other English-speaking countries like Canada, Australia, and the US.

  • Canada: Canada allows international students at all levels and programs to bring their spouses or partners and dependent children on a student visa. Children need to be under 22 years of age and unmarried. All the dependants are also able to work and study in Canada.
  • US: The United States allows international students at all levels of study to bring their family members with them while studying. International students with F-2 visas can bring their spouses and children as dependents. However, dependants in the US cannot work; they can only study.
  • Australia: Australia also allows international students to bring their immediate families to Australia during their studies. They can bring their spouses, partners, parents, and children. Dependant children must be under 18 years of age and unmarried.

Competitive Edge or Disadvantage for the UK

The UK’s new Dependants Policy could put the UK at a competitive disadvantage compared to international student policies around the world. International students may be more likely to study in Canada, Australia, or the US, where they can bring their families. International students can compare UK vs Canada student policies or other countries and choose alternative destinations.

International students are more likely to choose a country where their families can accompany them. This is especially true for students from countries where family ties are strong. The UK’s new Dependants Policy will deter some international students from studying in the UK altogether.

However, the United Kingdom still offers many advantages as a study destination, such as its world-class universities, the acceptance of its programs around the world, its diverse culture, and its central location in Europe.


Predicting the impact of the UK’s Dependents Policy Change on international students is not difficult, as anyone would say it will create a negative impact. The UK’s new Dependants policy is more restrictive than policies of other popular study destinations. Despite the challenges, the UK remains a popular higher-study destination for international students, and the UK government will continue to support them in other ways.

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