As an international student planning to study in the UK, you’ll probably want to know what the new student visa route introduced in January 2024 is all about. This update follows the amendments made to the Student visa rules on July 17, 2023, which stipulate that student visa holders looking to switch to a UK work visa must have completed their course of study and secured a job with a start date post-course completion. Additionally, PhD students are required to have completed at least 24 months of their study before they can switch to a work visa, such as the Skilled Worker visa. Our guide uncovers all the important aspects of the new student visa route for the UK so you know what to expect.

Why is the government introducing a new student visa route in 2024?

The background of the UK’s student visa policy has been characterised by a series of changes aimed at balancing the country’s educational appeal with its immigration policies. Historically, the UK has been a prime destination for international students, offering world-class education and diverse cultural experiences. However, the landscape of student visas has continually evolved, reflecting the UK’s response to global educational trends, migration patterns, and domestic policy priorities.

In recent years, the UK government has focused on refining its immigration system, with student visas being a significant aspect of this process. The changes to the student visa route, particularly those coming into effect in January 2024, represent a notable shift in policy. As per the new rules, international students will face restrictions on bringing dependants to the UK unless they are enrolled in postgraduate research programmes. This move is part of a broader strategy to reduce net migration, aligning with the government’s objectives to manage the influx of immigrants into the country.

These changes also reflect the UK’s position in the global education sector. While the UK continues to assert its status as a leading destination for international students, these visa policy adjustments indicate a more selective approach, focusing on attracting students into specific programmes and managing the overall number of immigrants under the student visa category.

The UK student visa policy is a combination of strategic adjustments, balancing the country’s educational offerings with its immigration objectives. The 2024 changes are the latest in this series of adaptations, marking a new phase in the UK’s approach to international student intake.

What are the new 2024 changes to the student visa route?

What are the new 2024 changes to the student visa route?

The new changes to the UK student visa policy, set to take effect from January 2024, are likely to impact some international students and international student immigration generally.

One of the most notable changes is the restriction on the ability of international students to bring dependants to the UK. Under the new rules, only those enrolled in PhD or postgraduate research programs will be allowed to bring their dependant partners or children to the country. This change marks a departure from previous policies that were more lenient in allowing dependants for a broader range of study programmes.

By restricting dependant visas, the government aims to reduce the overall number of people entering the country under the student visa category. This move is also indicative of a more targeted approach to attracting international talent, focusing on those engaged in higher-level research and academic pursuits.

These changes are expected to have significant implications for international students, particularly those who plan to pursue undergraduate or general postgraduate studies in the UK. It may affect decisions regarding studying in the UK, especially for those who wish to bring family members with them.

Who is eligible for the new student visa route 2024?

Who is eligible for the new student visa route 2024?

The eligibility criteria for the new UK student visa route, effective from 2024, have been tailored to align with the updated immigration policies. The primary focus is on attracting students who are pursuing higher levels of academic research. Here are the key eligibility criteria for the new student visa route:

Level of study

The most significant change in eligibility criteria is the focus on postgraduate research programs. Students enrolled in PhD programs or other postgraduate research courses will be prioritised. This shift aims to attract students who contribute significantly to the UK’s academic and research environment.

Dependant restrictions

A crucial change is the restriction on bringing dependants. Under the new rules, only students enrolled in postgraduate research programs are allowed to bring their dependant partners or children to the UK. This means that students pursuing undergraduate or general postgraduate courses will no longer have this privilege.

Financial requirements

Applicants must demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to support themselves during their study period in the UK. This includes tuition fees and living expenses. The exact amount may vary depending on the course and the location of the educational institution.

English language proficiency

Students must prove their proficiency in English, which is a standard requirement for most UK student visas. This typically involves passing an approved English language test.

Admission from a licensed sponsor

Applicants must have an offer of admission from a licensed education provider in the UK. The institution must be recognised by the UK government as a legitimate sponsor.

Healthcare surcharge payment

Students are required to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of their application, granting them access to the UK’s National Health Service during their stay.

No intent to settle

As per the UK’s immigration rules, student visas are temporary. Applicants must demonstrate that they do not intend to settle permanently in the UK.

How to apply for a new student visa 2024?

How to apply for a new student visa 2024?

Applying for a visa can be daunting, but fear not! Here, we’ll guide you through the steps to ensure your application is as smooth as possible.

The application process for the UK Student Visa in 2024 involves several key steps, designed to assess the eligibility and intentions of applicants. Here’s an overview of the process:

  1. Confirm eligibility: Before applying, ensure you meet the eligibility criteria, including being 16 or over and having an offer from a licensed student sponsor.
  2. Gather required documents: Prepare necessary documents, including proof of acceptance from a licensed educational institution, evidence of financial capability, and English language proficiency certification.
  3. Complete the online application: The application for the UK Student Visa is completed online. Applicants need to fill out the form with accurate and up-to-date information.
  4. Pay the visa fee and healthcare surcharge: Applicants must pay the visa application fee and the healthcare surcharge as part of their application. The exact amount will depend on the duration of the stay and the type of course.
  5. Biometric information submission: After submitting the online application, applicants are required to provide their biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph) at a visa application centre.
  6. Attend an interview (if required): Some applicants may be asked to attend an interview where they will answer questions about their study plans and intentions in the UK.
  7. Wait for a decision: The processing time can vary, but applicants will receive a decision on their visa application as per the standard processing times.
  8. Receive visa and prepare for travel: If the application is successful, the applicant will receive their visa, after which they can make travel arrangements to the UK.

 

It’s important to start this process well in advance of the intended start date of study to account for processing times and any potential delays.

Switching to a work visa from a student dependant visa

Individuals residing in the UK on a Student Dependant visa have the option to switch to a work visa, such as the Skilled Worker visa. This transition allows you to remain in the UK independently, based on your own qualifications and employment, rather than relying on the immigration status of your partner or parent. However, it’s important to note that parents of children on student visas are not eligible to switch to a Skilled Worker visa.

To successfully switch from a Student Dependant visa to a Skilled Worker visa, you must fulfil the following requirements:

Secure a job offer

You need a job offer for an eligible role from an employer who holds a UK sponsor licence.

Satisfy salary requirements

As of December 2023, you must meet the minimum salary threshold, which is either £26,200 per year, £10.75 per hour, or the ‘going rate’ for the specific job you are offered.

Prove English language proficiency

You must demonstrate English language skills at a B1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. This involves being able to read, write, speak, and understand English effectively.

Meeting these criteria is essential for a successful transition from a student dependent visa to a Skilled Worker visa in the UK.

Extending a student dependent visa after January 2024

Extending a student dependent visa after January 2024

You can extend your student dependant visa after January 2024, provided the main student visa holder (your partner or parent) commenced their course before 1st January, 2024. Your dependant visa can be extended for the duration of the validity of the main visa holder’s visa. The new regulations regarding student visa dependants are applicable only to courses that begin after 1st January, 2024.

Applying for a dependant visa after switching to a Post-Study Work visa

If you transition from a student visa to a post-study work visa (PSW), also known as the UK Graduate visa, your family members (partner and children) can still apply for a dependant visa to stay with you in the UK. It’s important to note that under the Graduate visa regulations, this is feasible only if your family members have already been residing with you in the UK as your dependants during your study period.

What documents are required for the 2024 UK student visa application?

What documents are required for the 2024 UK student visa application?

For the 2024 UK student visa application, applicants will need to prepare a range of documents to support their application. While specific requirements may vary slightly depending on individual circumstances, the following are generally required:

  • Valid passport: A current passport or other valid travel documentation.
  • Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS): A reference number issued by a licensed sponsor, typically a university, confirming that you have been accepted on a course of study.
  • Proof of financial support: Evidence that you can support yourself and pay for your course – this can be bank statements or a letter from a financial sponsor. As of late 2023, you need to show you have enough money to cover your course fees for one year and living costs (for up to 9 months). The exact amount depends on your circumstances.
  • English Language proficiency: Proof of English language skills, usually through a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider, unless you’re exempt.
  • Academic qualifications: Documents that prove your academic qualifications, as stated in your CAS.
  • Parental consent: If you’re under 18, written consent from your parents or legal guardians, along with proof of your relationship.
  • Tuberculosis test results: If you’re from a country where you have to take the test.
  • Healthcare surcharge payment: Evidence of payment of the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), which entitles you to use the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
  • Additional documents: Depending on your situation, you may need additional documents, such as a police registration certificate or a biometric residence permit.

 

Make sure to check the latest guidance from the UK government or consult with an immigration expert, as requirements can change and may vary based on individual circumstances.

If you have more questions about the new student visa route 2024, it’s worth contacting universities or legal teams. If you’re wondering what it will be like to study here, find out here what to expect as an international student in the UK.