Number of dependants coming to UK on study visas soars again

More family members entered country on study visas in 2022 than in previous six years combined – with Nigerian dependants outnumbering students

February 24, 2023
Source: iStock

A record number of dependants were granted UK visas alongside students last year, figures reveal – more than in the previous six years combined.

Home Office statistics show that 490,763 sponsored study visas were granted to main applicants in 2022, the highest number since comparable records began in 2005.

This was 29 per cent more than the year before, and 26 per cent higher than the number granted in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year.

The student visa holders were accompanied by a record 135,788 dependants – almost nine times the number that entered the country in 2019, and more than the total for the previous six years combined.

The Home Office cautioned that the latest figures might reflect a change in the composition of students, if, for example, larger numbers of older students are being attracted to study in the UK.

The home secretary, Suella Braverman, has previously indicated her support for a clampdown on the “really high” number of dependants coming into the country.

Recent proposals would also limit the overseas students allowed to bring dependants with them to those enrolled on postgraduate courses that are research-based or are at least two years long.

Ms Braverman’s comments about family members “piggybacking” on student visas have been repeatedly criticised by sector leaders.

They point out that those pursuing undergraduate courses are not able to bring in dependants and note that as most international students study at postgraduate level and tend to be older, they are therefore more likely to have dependants.

Almost half of the dependants (45 per cent) came from Nigeria, with 29 per cent from India and 6 per cent from Pakistan.

The number of main applicant visas granted to Nigerian students in 2022 was eight times greater than in 2021 – while the number of dependant visas increased by 38 times over the same period.

The 2022 figures meant that for the first time, there were more visas granted for Nigerian dependants than for Nigerian students.

In 2019, dependants made up just 4 per cent of all sponsored study-related visas granted, but last year this proportion rose to 22 per cent.

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