The recent visa regulation adjustments in the United Kingdom have sparked considerable speculation among international communities, especially Indian students, caregivers, and skilled workers, regarding the potential impact on their prospects in the UK.

The government argues that these changes are crucial to thwart the exploitation of care workers, who have frequently been granted visas based on deceitful claims, such as nonexistent job offers or wages below the mandated minimum.

New UK visa regulations entail restrictions on postgraduate research students bringing dependents, a raised salary threshold for skilled visa access, and increased minimum income for family visas. Indian nationals, constituting the largest group of post-study graduate visa recipients and the second-highest number of dependents in the UK, will be significantly affected. Additionally, medics on health and care visas from India will no longer be permitted to bring family members.

Revisions to UK Visa Rules Impacting International Students

A review of the Graduate Route for international students has been initiated to ensure its effectiveness, particularly considering that Indian nationals constitute the largest beneficiary group of this visa.

Updates to UK visa regulations affecting caregivers and skilled workers

The updated visa regulations now limit caregivers from bringing dependents, aiming to address the high ratio of dependents accompanying workers. Furthermore, skilled workers are encountering elevated salary thresholds to sponsor dependents to enter the country. These measures involve increasing the salary threshold for skilled workers and abolishing the 20 per cent “going-rate” discount for migrant workers in shortage occupations.

In February, the UK announced a significant increase in the minimum salary required for Skilled Worker visa applicants, jumping by 48% from approximately Rs 27,78,244 to Rs 41,03,899, effective from April 4. This change will notably affect the financial criteria for family visas as well.

Brar states, “The objective is to deter dependents from becoming an economic burden by exploiting indirect routes to work in the UK.”

UK government reports indicate that approximately 120,000 dependents accompanied 100,000 workers on the route in 2023.

Individuals from the Philippines, Nigeria, India, and Zimbabwe comprise the largest cohort of caregivers in the UK.

Wider Effects of the New Regulations

As part of a wider initiative, the UK Home Office forecasts that around 300,000 individuals who were eligible to migrate to the UK last year will now face restrictions, resulting in a notable reduction in the availability of caregivers and other skilled professionals. Brar highlights that although this might cause a temporary shortage of caregivers, subsequently driving up salaries, it could also prompt Indian professionals to explore alternative destinations with more accommodating family immigration policies.

Contrast with other nations

Brar highlights the significant contrast between the UK’s rigorous policies and the more adaptable regulations in the USA, Canada, and Australia, especially concerning family immigration for students and researchers. “For instance, F-1 visa holders in the US can apply for dependents (spouse and children) to obtain F-2 visas. Moreover, US F-1 visas enable students to work for up to 1 year after graduation, with the possibility of extension for STEM field students. Similarly, Canada and Australia grant international graduates the opportunity to work for 2 to 4 years post-graduation,” she explained.

Effects on Indian Immigrants

Despite the tightening of regulations, the UK remains attractive due to its prestigious educational institutions and the absence of language barriers. However, Brar recommends that Indian professionals carefully assess their options, exploring countries with smoother transitions post-graduation, particularly for those in lower-paid positions or intending to return to India.

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