Changes to the UK Student Visa Policy

The UK government’s recent announcement regarding changes to its student visa policy is set to have significant implications for recruitment.

These modifications highlighted on 23 May 2023 will not only restrict international students from bringing their family members along but could also prevent them from switching to work visas.

Family Members Exclusion and Financial Requirement Review

Beginning January 2024, international students, except those pursuing postgraduate research routes, will be unable to bring their family members to the UK.

Additionally, the Home Office plans to review the existing financial requirement. Under the current visa conditions, students can bring their partners and children if they are enrolled in a postgraduate course of at least 9 months’ duration and possess a minimum of £680 per month for each dependent. How this is likely to change is still not certain but the likelihood is that the amounts will increase.

Limitations on Switching to Work Visas for International Students

To tackle potential misuse of the immigration system, the Home Office will now restrict international students from switching to work visas while they are in the UK unless they have completed their studies. This is a notable change, as no such restriction exists currently.

According to the Home Office, these modifications are aimed at reducing net migration numbers, which have reached record highs. Although the government has abandoned its 2010 manifesto to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands, it remains committed to reducing the numbers significantly.

Implications for Businesses and Labour Market

Business leaders may also be wondering how these changes will affect them, especially in light of recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK’s departure from the EU. These factors have led to shifts in the labour market, with some individuals leaving the workforce entirely and an increase in economically inactive individuals due to illness. Moreover, the departure of certain EU nationals from the UK has created significant labour shortages, particularly in sectors such as hospitality.

For highly skilled labour, businesses can still rely on the immigration system to bring in overseas workers. However, for lower-skilled roles, the immigration system only allows for specific positions, such as fruit pickers, on a short-term, temporary basis. Businesses seeking long-term, low-skilled workers must now turn to the resident labour market. With the UK government imposing restrictions on student dependents, this reduction in the labour market may exacerbate vacancies in quite a few sectors.

Challenges for Businesses Sponsoring Foreign Students

Another challenge businesses will face is the inability to directly sponsor foreign students for work visas if they have not completed their studies. In such cases, the student would be required to leave the UK and apply to return, leading to additional costs and delays for both them and the employer.

These changes in student visa policy undoubtedly carry far-reaching implications for both recruitment and businesses across various sectors. Businesses must understand and adapt to these modifications to ensure a smooth transition and continued growth.

Need help with immigration visas and worker permits? Contact SilverOak Solicitors today on 020 8578 7778.

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