In an effort to manage increasing net migration, the British government is contemplating limiting the issuance of dependant visas to international students from Nigeria and other countries.

According to a report by the Financial Times (FT), the departments of education, home office, and treasury are working on finalizing plans that would prohibit family members of master’s students on one-year courses from accompanying them to the United Kingdom (UK).

This development could impact immigration figures for countries like Nigeria, which saw a significant rise in the number of dependants (60,923) of sponsored study visa holders in 2022, compared to 1,586 in 2019.

The FT stated, “Immigration has emerged as a highly contentious political topic. Ministers are now in the process of devising strategies to address the recent surge in legal migration, particularly the number of dependants who accompany overseas master’s students, often from India and Nigeria.

According to the report, students have played a major role in the post-coronavirus pandemic increase in migration, as the UK authorities issued nearly 500,000 study visas in 2022 alone—a significant 81% rise compared to 2019.

A minister quoted by the British business news organization emphasized that many master’s courses last only nine months, stating, “We believe this will not significantly impact our ability to attract global talent.”

Another minister confirmed that the focus of these restrictions would be on the dependants of master’s students, adding, “It is evident that we must take action. We are far from David Cameron’s commitment to reducing annual net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’.”

While the treasury typically supports higher migration, it has acknowledged the political necessity to limit the number of dependants of overseas students. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has also endorsed the plan.

In September of last year, The Telegraph, a leading British daily broadsheet, reported that the UK government was contemplating stricter visa rules governing the number of relatives migrants could bring into the country.

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman expressed concerns about the influx of students and stressed the need to reduce their numbers, stating, “Our country faces structural pressures posed by mass and rapid migration.”

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