Exploring Overseas Education: Implications of the UK’s Altered Policy on International Students’ Dependents for Indians


Effective January 2024, foreign postgraduate students enrolled in non-research programs will lose the ability to bring their family members to the United Kingdom (UK). Previously, international students, including spouses and children, were permitted to accompany postgraduate students under the dependant visa category. Notably, this restriction exclusively affects postgraduate-level international students, as those pursuing undergraduate studies were already prohibited from bringing dependants.

The revised policy holds implications for prospective students from India, influencing their decision-making process when considering the UK as a study destination. The inability to bring dependants may act as a deterrent for students contemplating education in the UK.

In an exclusive interview, Karun Kandoi, Chief Experience Officer at ApplyBoard, a global education technology platform, sheds light on the repercussions of this policy change and explores alternative education destinations with more lenient rules for dependants.

This alteration may significantly shape the choices of prospective students from India, as the inability to bring dependants could dissuade them from considering the UK as their study destination.

Despite UK postgraduate programs having a relatively short duration of about a year, compared to other markets, the significance of bringing families along now rests upon the individual preferences of students. This change prompts a consideration of how important it is for them to have their families accompany them to the destination country.

Determining who qualifies as a ‘dependant’ can vary among countries and is typically defined by immigration and visa regulations. In the UK, a ‘dependant’ is generally a family member relying on the primary visa holder for financial support, including spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, and children under 18. In Canada, the definition extends to spouses, common-law partners, children under 22, and parents and grandparents in specific immigration programs.

Australia includes spouses, de facto partners, children, and other family members in some cases. In the USA, dependants usually consist of spouses and unmarried children under 21 who can be sponsored by the primary visa holder.

Regarding the rights and benefits under the amended rule in the UK, they vary based on the specific visa category but generally encompass legal residence, work rights for adult dependants, access to healthcare through the National Health Service (NHS), education for dependant children, and the ability to travel in and out of the UK while the primary visa holder’s visa is valid.

It’s essential to note that the duration of the dependant’s visa typically aligns with that of the primary visa holder. Due to potential changes introduced by the amended policy rules, referring to the UK Home Office or the specific visa program’s official guidelines is advisable for the most up-to-date and accurate information on dependants’ rights and benefits.

Examine the rights and benefits of dependents of international students in the United States, Australia, Canada, and the European Union. The entitlements for international student dependants vary by country and are contingent upon the specific class or category of the visa.

  • In the United States, dependants can legally reside and work, with access to healthcare and education subject to variations based on the specific visa category.
  • In Australia, dependants generally have the ability to work and access the education system, although healthcare access may vary.
  • In Canada, dependants are permitted to reside, work, and access healthcare and education.
  • Within the European Union, the rights and benefits for dependants fluctuate among member countries. These may include legal residence, access to education, healthcare, and work rights, all subject to the specific regulations of the host country.

As the Spring 2024 enrollment approaches, have you observed a change in the universities favored by Indian students?

While the UK continues to attract students from India, feedback indicates a softening demand in 2024. Nonetheless, there is a notable surge in the prompt release of offers to Indian students by UK universities through the ApplyBoard Platform, bringing positive news for those contemplating studying in the UK.

The visa application process is typically swift and straightforward, allowing students applying to the UK to receive acceptance well into the end of the year in many instances.

Between 2021 and 2022, India received the highest number of dependent US visas. Is the US the preferred choice for Indian students seeking to bring dependents throughout their educational journey?

While the US granted the most dependent visas to Indian students, the restriction on dependents’ ability to work may deter international students from bringing their families or prompt them to explore alternative study destinations.

Notably, there has been a recent surge in new dependants in Australia, witnessing an impressive 136% year-over-year increase. In the Australian government’s fiscal year from July 2022 to June 2023, 7,114 dependent visas were granted to Indians on study visas, positioning India at the top with a dependent-to-main applicant ratio of 0.20.

In Canada, dependants have the flexibility to apply for a study permit, work permit, or visitor visa. The Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) offers a clear pathway for international students and their immediate family members (spouses and young children) to stay in Canada and gain the post-graduation work experience necessary for permanent residency applications.

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