One of the advantages of being an international student in the UK is that under existing rules, you are allowed to bring certain family members with you under the student dependent visa.
However, in May 2023, the UK Government announced plans to restrict access to the student dependent route only to post-graduate research routes. This change is expected to take effect from as early as January 2024.
The Home Office has confirmed that new student dependent visa guidance is to be developed and published in 2023.
The following guide for student dependent visa applicants looks at the current rules relating to partners and children accompanying or joining a student visa holder in the UK, from the different eligibility requirements to the application process and timescales involved.
What is the student dependent visa?
The student visa is the points-based immigration route for international students, aged 16 or over, looking to undertake a course of further or higher education in the UK, typically full-time — such as a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a PhD — and are sponsored by a UK education provider that holds a valid student sponsor licence.
In some cases, the student visa holder is allowed to be joined in the UK by a dependent partner or dependent children, for example, if they’re studying full-time at postgraduate level or on a government sponsored scheme. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘student dependent visa UK’.
Students in the UK studying for a period of less than 6 months cannot bring dependants to the UK. Child students also cannot bring dependants with them.
Student dependent visa eligibility requirements
There are various eligibility requirements when applying as the dependent partner or dependent child of a student already in the UK or looking to come to the UK, including:
- A student course requirement
- A relationship requirement
- A financial requirement
- An age and care requirement (for dependent children).
Student course requirement
Under the student course requirement, the applicant must be the partner or child of:
- a government-sponsored student who has, or is seeking, permission to study in the UK on a full-time course of 6 months or more;
- a full-time student who has, or is seeking, permission to study a postgraduate course of 9 months or more at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance;
- a student who has permission on what’s known as the Doctorate Extension Scheme;
- a student who has, or within the last 3 months has had, permission to study in the UK on a full-time course of at least 6 months, and is seeking permission to study on a full-time course of at least 6 months, where either the partner or child already has, or within the last 3 months has had, permission as a dependent partner or child, or the child was born since the student’s last grant of permission where applying at the same time.
Alternatively, if the applicant is a child who doesn’t fall into one of these categories, they must meet one of the following requirements instead:
- they must’ve been born during the student’s current period of permission to study a full-time course of at least 6 months and they’re applying for permission during that period;
- where the student has permission to re-sit exams or repeat a module of a full-time course of at least 6 months, they must’ve either been born during the student’s original period of permission or during the period granted for re-sitting exams or to repeat a module;
- they must’ve been born no more than 3 months after expiry of the student’s most recent permission and be making an application for entry clearance within 6 months of expiry of their parent’s most recent permission.
Under the relationship requirement for the dependent partner of a student:
- the applicant must be either the partner of a student or partner of a person applying at the same time as a student;
- the applicant and their student partner must be aged at least 18 at the time of applying;
- the applicant and their partner must be either married or in a civil partnership or, instead, be living together in a relationship resembling a marriage or civil partnership for at least the last 2 years; any previous relationship must have permanently broken down; and they must not be so closely related that they wouldn’t have been allowed to marry in the UK;
- the relationship between the applicant and their student partner must be both genuine and subsisting, and they must intend to live together during their time in the UK.
Under the relationship requirement for the dependent child of a student:
- the applicant must be the child of a parent who already has permission or is being granted permission as either a student or partner of a student at the same time;
- the applicant’s parents must each be applying at the same time as the applicant or have permission to be in the UK, unless the parent is the sole surviving parent, has sole responsibility for the applicant’s upbringing, or there are serious and compelling reasons to grant the applicant permission to be with or stay with the parent;
- if the applicant is a child born in the UK to a student visa holder or student partner, they must provide a full UK birth certificate showing the names of both parents.
Under the financial requirement for the dependent partner or child of a student, the applicant or their partner/parent, must have a minimum level of funds, to cover either a maximum period of 9 months or the period of permission applied for, whichever is shorter.
If the student is studying in London, the funds required are £845 per month. If the student is studying outside the London area, the funds required are £680 per month. These funds must be in addition to the funds required for the student to meet the financial requirement, when applying at the same time. These funds are also payable for each person applying at the same time or already in the UK as a dependent partner or dependent child.
Unless the applicant is relying on government sponsorship or financial aid from an international scholarship agency that covers the living costs of both the applicant and student, they must show that they’ve held the required level of funds for a period of 28 days.
If the funds held in the applicant’s account at the date of the visa decision fall substantially below the level of funds required under the rules, the case worker making the decision must be satisfied that the spent funds have been used in part to pay a deposit for accommodation.
Age and care requirements
Under the age and care requirements for dependent children, the child must be under 18, unless last granted permission as a dependent child of someone who has permission as a student or as a partner of a student. This means that a dependent child over the age of 18 can apply for an extension, provided they’re already in the UK as a dependant.
If the dependent child is aged 16 or 17, they must not be leading an independent life. If aged under 18, there must also be suitable arrangements for their UK care and accommodation.
Applying for a student dependent visa
To apply for a student dependent visa, whether the application is for entry clearance or permission to stay, the applicant will need to submit an online application, submit their supporting documentation and pay the relevant fee.
As part of their application, they may also need to have their fingerprints and photograph taken at an overseas visa application centre or at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to enable them to obtain a biometric residence permit.
Student dependent visa UK: what documents are needed in support?
When applying for a student dependent visa, the partner or child applying will need various documents in support of their application, including:
- a current passport or another travel document to prove their identity and nationality
- where applicable, proof they’ve got enough money to support themselves during their stay
- proof of their relationship with the primary student visa holder, such as a birth certificate, or marriage or civil partnership certificate
- a valid tuberculosis (TB) test certificate, if resident in a country where a TB test is needed.
If applying from a country listed under the ‘differential evidence requirement’, and applying at the same time as the student, the applicant won’t need to prove that they have money to support themselves. However, the applicant may need additional documents depending on their circumstances, for example, evidence that the relationship with their student partner is genuine and subsisting, or evidence of dependence for children aged 16 or over.
Any documents needed in support of the application can be uploaded into the online service or scanned at a visa application centre or UKVCAS appointment.
Applying for a student dependent visa from within the UK
The partner or child of a student can apply from within the UK, provided they’ve not been in the UK under a visitor visa; a short-term student visa; a parent of a child student visa; a seasonal worker visa; or a domestic worker in a private household visa.
They must also not fall for refusal for a visa under any of the general grounds for refusal, for example, they’ve been in the UK outside the Immigration Rules, such as if they’ve overstayed.
However, if the dependent partner or dependant child of a student is applying for permission to stay in the UK, and has been living in the UK with permission for at least 12 months, they’ll meet the financial requirement and won’t need to show funds.
How much is a student dependent visa?
The cost of applying for a student dependent visa from outside the UK is £363, and to switch to this visa from within the UK, it costs £490. There is an additional fee of £19.20 to have their biometric information taken.
The applicant will also need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge as part of their application to enable them to use the NHS during their stay in the UK.
Student dependent visa processing times
When applying for entry clearance as the dependent partner or dependent child of a student, a decision will usually be made within around 3 weeks. When applying to switch to this category of visa from within the UK, a decision will usually take around 8 weeks. In some cases, however the applicant may be able to pay for a faster decision under a priority service.
If the application for a student dependent visa is successful, the dependent partner will be granted permission ending on the same date as their student partner’s permission. For a dependent child, the duration of their visa will run until whichever of their parents’ permission ends first or, where only one parent is present in the UK, that parent’s permission.
Student dependent visa FAQs
Can student take dependent to UK?
Under the student visa rules the primary visa holder can, in certain circumstances, bring dependants to the UK, provided the partner or child meets all the eligibility requirements.
Can we get dependent visa on student visa in UK?
The partner or child of a student visa holder will be able to apply for a dependent visa, but they must first satisfy various eligibility criteria, including a student course requirement, a relationship requirement and a financial requirement.
What are the requirements for dependent visa in UK?
There are various requirements to be eligible for a dependent visa in the UK, including a student course, relationship and financial requirement. There is also an age requirement and a care requirement for the dependent child of a student.
Can you bring dependents on student visa?
A student can bring both their partner and children to the UK on a student visa, provided they’re studying at postgraduate level or on a government sponsored scheme, or any other course that meets the student course requirement.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.