Changes to student visa policy will affect recruitment in the UK

On 23 May 2023 the Home Office announced plans to change student visa conditions, which will limit international students bringing their family members with them to the UK as well as preventing international students from switching into work visas.

Read the Government's plans here.

According to the plans, from January 2024 all international students, except for those on post graduate research routes, will be unable to bring their family members with them to the UK. The Home Office also intend to review the current financial requirement. Current visa conditions allow students to bring their partner and children with them so long as the student is studying on a post-graduate level course of 9 months or more and they have at least £680 a month for each dependant.

Due to a perceived misuse of the immigration system, the Home Office will also prevent international students from changing to a work visa whilst they are in the UK unless they have completed their studies. Currently there is no such restriction.

The Home Office say the changes are an effort to drive down net migration numbers which has reached record highs. Whilst the government has dropped their 2010 manifesto to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands, they are still driven to reduce migration.

In February 2020, the current immigration system was introduced by then Home Secretary, Priti Patel. The system was designed to focus on bringing skilled workers to the UK. At the time, Ms Patel had declined to introduce a lower skilled work route as it was recognised that dependants could fill these positions. Dependants of students currently have near full access to the UK labour market and can work at any skill level.

Business leaders may ask how this will affect them. Since this new system was introduced the COVID 19 pandemic swept the world which resulted in a change of the way people worked. Some left the labour market all together and there has been an increase in economically inactive people due to illness. Additionally, the UK left the EU in December 2020 which resulted in some EU nationals leaving the UK.

Business are now up and running however labour shortages have caused a drag in the UK’s economic growth. Businesses need labour at all skill levels. Those who need highly skilled labour can look to the immigration system and bring overseas workers. The immigration system allows businesses to bring lower skilled seasonal workers but only in very specific roles, such as fruit pickers. The route is only for short term, temporary roles. Any business that needs long term low skilled workers must look to the resident labour market. With the UK government now limiting student dependants, this decrease in the labour market may see some sectors suffer further vacancies.

A further blow to businesses will be the inability for foreign students to switch to a work visa if they have not completed their studies. If a business now wishes to sponsor a foreign student to work with them, the student will be required to leave the UK and apply to return. This will create additional costs and delays to both the student and the employer.

Immigration is a hot political subject and as such, the rules change frequently and usually without much warning. Our specialist Immigration team are on hand to keep you up to date with all the changes and help you navigate the system to benefit your business.

If you wish for further information or wish to discuss how we can help you, please contact a member of our Immigration Team who will be happy to assist.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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