The UK plans to remove the right for some foreign students to bring dependents with them as it seeks to lower overall migration levels.
The move affects all overseas students, apart from those on postgraduate research programmes.
It will come into effect from next January.
The package, announced ahead of figures on Thursday which are expected to show net migration running at record levels, amounts to the “single biggest tightening measure a government has ever done”.
It also removes the ability for international students to switch out of the student route into work before their studies have been completed.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told his cabinet that around 136,000 visas were granted to dependents in 2022, an eightfold increase from 16,000 in 2019.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman told MPs: “This package strikes the right balance between acting decisively on tackling net migration and protecting the economic benefits that students can bring to the UK.
“Now is the time for us to make these changes to ensure an impact on net migration as soon as possible. We expect this package to have a tangible impact on net migration.
“Taken together with the easing of temporary factors, we expect net migration to fall to pre-pandemic levels in the medium term.”
The Government is also reviewing the maintenance requirements for students and dependents and introducing steps to clamp down on “unscrupulous education agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration not education”.
“We are committed to attracting the brightest and the best to the UK,” said Ms Braverman.
“Therefore, our intention is to work with universities over the course of the next year to design an alternative approach that ensures that the best and the brightest students can bring dependents to our world-leading universities, while continuing to reduce net migration.”
The measures also include reviewing the maintenance requirements for students and dependents and steps to clamp down on “unscrupulous education agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration, not education”, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.
Alongside that there will be better communication around the immigration rules to the higher education sector and to international students, and “improved and targeted enforcement activity”.
Source: The National News