Surge in Indian students bringing dependants to the UK ahead of January ban

Sign outside the British Deputy High Commission, Mumbai, India
Sign outside the British Deputy High Commission, Mumbai, India

Indian students are rushing to get visas to bring their dependants to the UK in time to beat a Government ban in January.

Education agents are charging Indian students inflated prices secure places at UK universities before the Home Office deadline for banning dependants from coming to the UK from Jan 1.

One example saw a couple pay £30,000 to secure a student visa and a dependant’s visa to travel to the UK together.

Some universities have opened up applications in November and December amid a surge in students who have brought forward their UK plans to avoid the ban.

Rishi Sunak announced a crackdown earlier this year barring masters and postgraduate students from bringing their dependants to the UK unless they were on research programmes.

Dependant visas double

It followed a sharp rise in study-related visas for dependants of students.

They almost doubled from 80,846 in the year ending June 2022 to 154,063 in June 2023, accounting for nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of all sponsored study related visas.

The disclosure comes ahead of Thursday’s migration figures which are expected to show net migration has stuck at around 500,000, down from a peak last year of 606,000 but still five times higher than David Cameron’s pledge to bring that figure below 100,000.

Students represent around 40 per cent of all visas.

To beat the ban, one couple entered into a “contract” marriage, where the man agreed to fund his wife’s university education in the UK in return for her sponsoring his dependent visa so he could work in the UK.

He did not have the required academic or language qualifications to enter the UK as a student and ended up paying £30,000 for her tuition, visa and admission fees on top of her expenses.

Another student, Rinku Sharma, from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, had originally planned to enrol in a UK university late next year. However, the looming ban prompted him to accelerate his admission plans.

Mr Sharma, who sold his agricultural land to fund the agent, paid them £11,000 for his admission in a masters course as well as a dependent visa for his wife.

“It is a one-time investment,” Mr Sharma said. “Once we get a degree from the UK and work experience, we have a great future both in the UK and back in India.” He did not divulge the details of his university.

Mr Sharma was not the only Indian student queuing outside the education and visa consultancies.

‘Grab the opportunity’

Priyanka Tyagi, of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, decided to bring forward her application for a postgraduate course in the UK after completing her undergraduate studies.

“I have got a visa for my spouse also. He has a bachelor of business administration and will get a job in the UK. We are leaving for England next week,” Ms Tyagi said.

Visa consultancies, such as Om Visa in Punjab, advertise exclusive opportunities for Indian students to enrol in UK universities in November and December.

Sahil Bhatia, the head of the Om Visa, said he was receiving between 30 and 40 spouse applications a day.

In a social media post promoting his business, he said: “The student can take their spouses and children along. Hurry up and grab the opportunity to get admission in the university with limited seats before the January ban is implemented.”

Among the universities he cited as taking students in November and December were BPP in London, Birmingham and Bedfordshire. Sources at BPP said the number of postgraduate students had doubled in comparison with the same point last year.

A Universities UK spokesman said: “International students enrich our campuses and communities, as well as bringing more than £41.9 billion to the UK economy, and it is vital that the UK remains a welcoming and competitive study destination.

“International students arriving under the current rules are subject to significant scrutiny from the Home Office and universities, and must demonstrate they can financially support both themselves and any dependent partner or child they bring, as well as paying the NHS surcharge upfront. A relatively small proportion of students are accompanied by dependents.”

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