LONDON (Reuters) – The British government announced on Tuesday its intention to significantly restrict family reunification for international students.
The UK has already seen record net immigration of half a million people between June 2021 and June 2022 and new figures due this week are expected to confirm the trend, an embarrassment for the Conservative CEO led by Rishi Sunak.
This topic is even more sensitive because the very right-wing Home Secretary, Soella Braverman, is currently weakened by her speeding ticket administration.
While prestigious British universities attract many foreigners, the new restrictions on student visas will “significantly reduce net immigration by limiting the possibility for international students to bring family members,” the government said in a statement.
These measures, which will take effect in January, concern all students “with the exception of postgraduate researchers”.
In addition, international students will no longer be able to convert from a student visa to a work visa before completing their studies.
The government vows to act against “unscrupulous agents” who use student visas as a route to immigration.
In 2022, about 136,000 visas were issued to dependents of foreign students, up from 16,000 in 2019, according to government figures.
“We have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of student dependents arriving in the country on visas,” the statement quoted Soella Braverman as saying.
The minister believed that the new measures represented a “fair balance” and would allow “in the medium term” to rebalance migration to pre-Covid levels.
Reactions have been strong from universities who fear exorbitant fee-paying foreigners will lose a vital source of income and part of their appeal on the world stage.
The Russell Group, which represents the most prestigious institutions such as Oxford or Cambridge, expressed concern about the measures, which will affect efforts to “diversify international employment.”
“Those who choose to study in the UK, wherever they come from, bring tremendous value to our society and deserve to live alongside their loved ones while they study,” said Jo Grady, Secretary General of the University of California Higher Education Association. Instead, they are treated with contempt.
deficiency in the arm
The issue of controlling immigration dominated discussions during the 2016 campaign that led to the UK leaving the European Union.
But the Conservative government has since failed to crack down on legal and illegal immigration, despite its promises to restore border control.
In 2022, more than 45,000 migrants, a record number, will cross the English Channel illegally. ‘Stop the boats’ is one of Rishi Sunak’s five priorities.
The government wants to send asylum seekers who arrived illegally to third countries like Rwanda. But this project, which has been challenged in court, is at an impasse.
At the same time, the UK has, since Brexit, faced labor shortages, particularly in agriculture and health, which have led to regular tensions within the majority.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently admitted that he would have to grant tens of thousands of seasonal agricultural visas, apparently going against his home minister.
The latter intervened in a very conservative conference to declare that he saw “no good reason why the United Kingdom should not be able to train truck drivers and fruit pickers to limit immigration.”
Amid political tensions, Soella Braverman has come under attack since it emerged in the press over the weekend that she had asked officials to help her get preferential treatment after speeding last summer, in the form of a private awareness course.
His application was turned down but Rishi Sunak said he consulted his ethics adviser, Lowry Magnus, to decide what to pursue for what the opposition denounces as a breach of ministerial law.
“Food trailblazer. Passionate troublemaker. Coffee fanatic. General analyst. Certified creator. Lifelong music expert. Alcohol specialist.”