The laws will come into effect throughout this yearUK Prime Minister / Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Cambridge students and staff have condemned new immigration laws that will create barriers for the international student community to study and stay in the UK.

One student described the situation as unfair, saying they “chose to study here based on the old rules but now they are changing,” whilst a lecturer called the measures “short-sighted and arrogant”.

The new laws will include barriers that prevent students from bringing their dependents to the UK, as well as making it harder for them to obtain a work visa.

Two sets of new laws will come into effect in 2024. The first has been in force since January 1 (01/24), and another set of laws is set to come into effect by the Spring.

The January 1 laws include a measure in which students will no longer be allowed to bring their partner or children on dependent visas unless they are in a PhD program or a postgraduate research programme.

The new laws will predominantly impact international postgraduate students by preventing them from bringing their families with them to the UK unless studying in a research program.

This has led to controversy, with people fearing that families might be separated. 

The Home Secretary, James Cleverly, recently announced new changes to legal migration rules. He declared that the Migration Advisory Committee will review the Graduate Visa, a “two-year unsponsored work permit for overseas graduates of British universities”.

Before the changes, graduating students were allowed to apply for a Graduate Visa, which allowed them to find work in the UK even if they were unsponsored. Once it expired, they were allowed to switch to a different visa, such as a Skilled Worker Visa.

Now with the new rule changes, Skilled Worker Visa’s requirements have also changed, with the baseline minimum salary to be sponsored increasing from £26,200 to £38,700.

These changes must first be approved by Parliament before they come into effect. By convention, there should be at least 21 days before these new measures will be enforced.


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One student told Varsity: “I chose to study here based on the old rules but now they are changing. It’s hard enough to go through your studies without the added job search pressure, especially in this market.”

They added: “I can’t help but be scared for my future. I feel like all of this has derailed my plans.”

One student commented on Camfess, an anonymous Facebook forum: “Anyone else scared by the new visa rules or is it just me who may have to change my entire life plan”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak celebrated the new laws: “From today, the majority of foreign university students cannot bring family members to the UK. In 2024, we’re already delivering for the British people.”

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner has highlighted the impact these new laws will have on research institutions such as the University. He said: ‘The steep fall in international student applications is a crisis waiting to happen for our universities and the research and development sector.”

“It’s disappointing that the Minister [of State for Science, Research and Innovation, Andrew Griffith] seems unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation. While it is important to tackle skill shortages at home, a lack of proper impact assessment for the Government’s immigration policies could lead to very serious unintended consequences for universities and research in the UK.”

Cambridge University lecturer Sir Richard Evans responded: “This is so short-sighted and arrogant. It affects, above all, international graduate students in their mid to late 20s, many with families. Research-intensive universities depend heavily on them for income since they can charge economic fees for them, unlike for undergraduates.”