Dramatic Drop in Student Arrivals

International student applications to the UK have seen a significant decline following a policy change restricting dependants on student visas. As of January 1st, 2024, only students enrolled in specific postgraduate research programs can bring family members with them. This new regulation has resulted in an 80% decrease in dependant applications alongside a 26,000 drop in student visa applications for the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

Wider Immigration Changes Impact Visa Numbers

The student visa clampdown is just one piece of the UK government’s broader immigration reform puzzle. Additional changes implemented in February and March further impacted visa numbers. The minimum salary requirement for skilled worker visas jumped from £26,000 to a hefty £38,700. Similarly, the income threshold for sponsoring a spouse or partner visa rose from £18,600 to £29,000. These adjustments have undeniably contributed to the overall decline in migration figures.

Home Office Reports on Early Effects

The Home Office acknowledges that the March policy restricting dependant applications for care workers hasn’t yielded a significant impact yet. Currently, dependant applications on health and care visas still outnumber main applicants. Overall, skilled worker, skilled worker in health and care, and student visa grants have dipped to 139,100 since January, compared to 184,000 during the same period in 2023.

Government Lauds Progress, Opposition Expresses Reservations

Home Secretary James Cleverly views the “significant fall” in visa numbers as validation for the stricter measures. He emphasizes the need to control the number of dependants entering the UK alongside students and care workers. While acknowledging this as a positive step, Cleverly stresses that the government’s plan to reduce migration is ongoing. He promises further actions in the coming months to deliver the level of control the public desires.

The Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, remains unconvinced by the government’s approach. She believes the current measures are insufficient to address the “trebling net migration” issue. Citing the record high of 745,000 net migrants in 2022, Cooper criticizes the government’s border and labor market management strategies. She argues that the government has yet to implement comprehensive measures to improve skills and training programs, and points out that skilled worker visa issuance outside of health and social care hasn’t shown significant change.

These latest visa figures coincide with the UK’s return of its first asylum seeker to Rwanda under a separate “voluntary removals programme.

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