Study Abroad: UK student visa applications dropped 14.79%, dependent visas by 80% in Q1 of 2024

UK study visa application numbers drop in the wake of 2024 immigration policy barring dependents. Also, fewer Indians are going for master’s.

Study in UK : Drop in students' and dependents' visa applicationsStudy in UK : Drop in students' and dependents' visa applications

Pritha Roy Choudhury | May 23, 2024 | 06:13 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Number of students applying for visas to the United Kingdom has witnessed a significant drop after the country’s new immigration policy changes came into effect in January 2024, UK Home Office data revealed. While applications for ‘sponsored study’ visas dropped by 14.79%, the number of dependent visa applications saw a massive 79.63% decline in the first quarter of 2024 compared to those filed during the same period the previous year.

In the first quarter of 2023 (January to March), there were 39,900 applications for 'sponsored study' visas and 32,900 for dependent visas compared to 34,000 and a mere 6,700 applications, respectively, during the same period in 2024. By April, the decreases were 12% and 79% in main and dependent visa applications, respectively.

The new regulations, effective January 2024, bars international undergraduate and postgraduate students from bringing their dependents other than those pursuing PG research degrees. Minister for external affairs, S Jaishanker said the changes impact Indian students who form the second-largest group of any nationality to be granted dependent visas. Over 43,000 Indians were issued dependent UK visas in connection with those holding ‘sponsored study’ visas.

A total of 8,770 applications were rejected from India in the first quarter of 2024 as per a report by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) published in February 2024. The immigration system statistics show that the number of Indians going for a UK master’s dropped by 21,800 in the year ending in March, 2024.

Sponsored Study Visa: Indian numbers drop 16%

The top five nationalities to secure sponsored study visas between the year ending in March 2019 and the year ending in March 2024 were from India, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and the United States.

Of these, India and China showed the sharpest growth from 2019 to 2023 but numbers have fallen in 2024. The number of Indian study visa applicants has dropped by 16% and the number of Nigerians, by 38%.

1,16,455 Indians – main applicants – got sponsored study visas from March 2023 to 2024. This was 21,717 fewer than the previous year. Most Indian students go for UK master's programmes; their number declined by 21,800.

UK Visa Rules: Key changes

The declining figures were cited in the UK Migration Advisory Committee’s ‘rapid review’ of the graduate route visa – another policy of which Indians form the largest section of beneficiaries. The home secretary, James Cleverly, had sought an investigation into whether the policy was being abused.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), after review, recommended retaining the "graduate route" visa policy, a two-year unsponsored work permit for overseas graduates from UK universities. The review found no evidence of "abuse" of the policy.

In 2023, the graduate route visa gave over 50,000 Indians a post-study work option.

UK visa: Further assessment

UK immigration policy changes are one of the many factors impacting visa application volumes, and the provisional data indicates the number of people intending to come to the UK for study and work purposes.

The statistics on visa numbers will be published on the UK Home Office website every quarter in the immigration system statistics release.

The UK Home Office needs to wait for the peak in student applications for the next academic year, which is usually in August/September, to assess the full effect of recent policy changes and any other impacts.

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