In an effort to address the rising net migration numbers and reduce overall immigration, the UK government unveiled a series of measures targeted at international students. The package of reforms, announced on Tuesday, includes a ban on certain family members accompanying students and restrictions on switching from student visas to work visas before completing studies.
After experiencing a decline during the pandemic, net migration has been steadily increasing and is projected to reach a record high this year. Official figures released in November estimated net migration to exceed 500,000 by June 2022.
Under the new proposals, only postgraduate students enrolled in research programs will be allowed to bring dependents to the UK while pursuing their studies. This move aims to limit the number of individuals entering the country through family ties rather than pursuing education.
Additionally, international students will be prevented from transitioning from the student route to work routes before finishing their educational programs. The government also plans to intensify enforcement measures and crack down on unscrupulous agents exploiting the education system for immigration purposes, as stated in a government release.
According to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the number of visas issued to dependents of international students surged from 16,000 in 2019 to 136,000 last year. While Braverman acknowledged the significant role played by overseas students in supporting the UK economy, she emphasized the government’s commitment to reducing overall migration and ensuring that immigration is focused on highly skilled individuals who provide maximum benefit to the country.
Braverman expressed confidence that the proposed measures strike the right balance and will result in a decrease in net migration to pre-pandemic levels in the medium term. The issue of uncontrolled immigration was a key point of contention during the Brexit referendum in 2016, which ultimately led to the UK’s departure from the European Union.
In recent years, the UK has witnessed a significant influx of people crossing the English Channel in small boats to claim asylum, with over 45,000 arrivals recorded last year. This has placed immense political pressure on the government, which has pledged to regain control of the country’s borders.
The impact of Brexit and tighter immigration rules on businesses has also been a subject of debate. Several sectors, including agriculture and health and social care, which previously relied heavily on EU workers, have experienced severe skills shortages as a result.
In a concerning development, immigration statistics highlight a sharp increase in individuals relocating to the UK through their relatives’ student visas. A report by The Sun UK indicated that 135,788 family members accompanied students to Britain for study last year, a nine-fold rise from 2019. Notably, 59,053 Nigerian students brought over 60,923 relatives in the same period.
Furthermore, the UK recently placed Nigeria and other countries on its red list for international recruitment of health and social care personnel based on the World Health Organization’s Workforce Support and Safeguard List for 2023. This move reflects the country’s efforts to ensure the quality and appropriateness of recruitment practices in these sectors.
As the UK government introduces these measures, it remains to be seen how they will impact the overall immigration landscape and address concerns surrounding immigration control and the labor market’s needs.