Immigration policy changes predicted to significantly impact international students

By The Beaver Newsroom

On 4 December 2023, the Home Secretary announced a series of measures intended to deliver the largest ever reduction in legal net migration to Britain, expected to have significant effects on international student migration. Addressing the House of Commons, James Cleverly committed to several changes, including raising the minimum salary threshold for immigrants and banning most overseas students from bringing their families. 

The government also intends to review the student Graduate visa to ensure it “works in the best interests of the UK”, estimating that these combined measures will reduce annual legal net migration by 300,000 people.

The Chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee – responsible for conducting the Graduate visa’s review – suggested that the committee would explore options such as requiring students to “achieve a certain grade or certain kind of achievement in your course”. He also stated that the committee would investigate restricting Graduate visas to specific institutions or degrees.

While no final decision on the Graduate visa has been taken yet, the government has confirmed changes to other settlement routes. Overseas students will now be required to reach a salary threshold of £38,700 for a Skilled Workers visa. LSE – with a 70% international student body – estimates that the median salary for their students 15 months after graduating is £34,250, though this can heavily vary by degree. This new threshold has been set intentionally high to prevent immigration undercutting salaries of British citizens, though it will not apply retrospectively to those who already hold a visa. 

New announcements already pose significant distress for overseas students with future plans – and, in some cases, British citizens hoping to settle with partners that they may have met at university.

One student remarks that while they were planning to stay in the UK, their plans are “in shambles” due to the new policies and raised salaries. “My [graduate] job no longer meets the requirements which makes me so worried for the future”, they said. 

There has been widespread concern about current levels of immigration posing strains on the British state. Although most foreign nationals pay a surcharge to access the NHS, the Home Secretary argued that “people are understandably worried about housing, GP appointments, school places and access to other public services”. 

Public confidence over immigration policy has also significantly waned after repeated failures to reduce immigration to the “tens of thousands”, in-line with government manifesto commitments since 2010. Official figures estimate that a record-high of 745,000 people immigrated to Britain last year. 

These new measures represent the most serious attempt to deliver on the government’s long-standing commitments, and therefore generally command strong public support. Polling suggests that the electorate would be keen for the government to go further, with only 25% supporting the current Graduate visa scheme. 

An LSE Spokesperson has said: “International students make an enormous contribution to the UK’s economy, society and cultural life. At LSE we are proud of our global connections and the benefits they bring to our students, staff and to London more generally. 

“The School continues to work closely with our partners such as UK, the Russell Group and the Mayor of London to make the case for international students, and help create positive policies on student migration. We also make our own representations to relevant bodies, such as the Migration Advisory Committee and the Home Office.

“In addition to high level submissions, LSE staff work with UKVI and others to try and make sure the application process is as user-friendly as possible, and to challenge any new policies which will disadvantage our students.

“In terms of direct support for international students, the Student Advice and Engagement Team in the Student Services Centre provides detailed guidance on options for working during or after their studies, including the Graduate Route. This guidance is both through website material and direct presentations.” 

Photograph from Pexels

The Beaver Newsroom covers the impact of changing policy on international students


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