London, November 23
Education agents are charging Indian students more money to secure spots in the UK universities ahead of a government ban, which prohibits dependants from entering the country, beginning January 1, 2024.
A near-eightfold rise in the number of family members joining foreign students led Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to announce the ban earlier this year for those not studying “high-value” degrees under government plans.
A couple paid 30,000 pounds to secure a student visa and a dependant’s visa to travel to the UK together, according to The Telegraph newspaper.
With a rise in the number of students accelerating their visa applications to avoid the ban, some universities have opened up applications in November and December, the report added.
Sunak’s announcement followed a sharp rise in study-related visas for dependants of students, which almost doubled from 80,846 in the year ending June 2022 to 154,063 in June 2023, accounting for nearly 24 per cent of all sponsored study-related visas.
To avoid the ban, one couple entered into a “contract” marriage, where the man agreed to fund his wife’s university education in the UK in return for her sponsoring his dependant visa so he could work in the UK.
He did not have the required academic or language qualifications to enter the UK as a student and ended up paying 30,000 pounds for her tuition, visa and admission fees on top of her expenses.
Rinku Sharma from Ahmedabad sold his agricultural land to pay the education agent 11,000 pounds for his admission in a masters course as well as a dependant visa for his wife.
“It is a one-time investment. Once we get a degree from the UK and work experience, we have a great future both in the UK and back in India,” Sharma told The Telegraph.
Sahil Bhatia, head of Om Visa, a Punjab-based visa consultancy, said he was receiving between 30 and 40 spouse applications a day.
Bhatia said universities like BPP in London, Birmingham and Bedfordshire were taking students in November and December.
According to estimates, international students add 35 billion pounds a year to the UK economy, and 490,763 students were given visas last year.
Foreign students and their dependants contributed to the UK economy not just through fees of 10,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds but also via an NHS surcharge of 400 pounds a year for the student and 600 pounds for a dependant, UK-based New Way Consultancy said.