New immigration restrictions on overseas students bringing family to UK come into force today

A key element of Rishi Sunak’s plan to reduce legal migration to the UK comes into effect today – but he still faces fights with his backbenches to reduce both legal and illegal migration ahead of a general election expected this year.

Under the new rules, any international students starting courses from this month will not be able to bring dependants to the UK, unless they are on postgraduate research courses or courses with government-funded scholarships.

The changes were first announced last May as part of the government’s bid “to prevent misuse of the visa system”.

Ministers say it will see around 140,000 fewer people come to the UK each year.

In the year ending December 2022, 486,000 student visas were issued to applicants – up from 269,000 in 2019.

Last year, the number of student visas issued to dependants stood at 136,000 – an eight-fold increase from 2019, when 16,000 were provided.

Despite the challenges in legal migration, the government has seen more success tackling illegal migration, with the number migrants crossing the Channel on small boats down year-on-year for the first time since records began.

The provisional annual total for the year, 29,437, is 36% lower than the record 45,774 crossings for the whole of 2022. However, it is higher than the total figure for 2021 (28,526).

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