Sharp Drop in UK Visas in Q1 2024 – AEC


  • 6% Drop in UK Study Visas: The UK reports a 6% decrease in the number of study visas issued for the year ending March 2024.
  • New Policy Impact: The decline is linked to a new policy preventing most students from bringing dependants during their studies.
  • Q1 Decline Foreshadowing: The initial decline in Q1 may indicate a larger trend for the year, as visa application volumes are also down substantially in the first quarter of this year.

Decline in UK Student Visas: Detailed Analysis

A data release from the UK Home Office on June 13 confirms a decrease in student visa issuances for the 12 months ending March 2024. Visa issuances to main applicants (excluding dependants) declined by just over 6% year-over-year and 10% compared to the historical peak in June 2023.

According to the Home Office, “Following a fall in numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of visas issued subsequently increased sharply, reaching a peak of 498,626 in the year ending June 2023. The number of visas issued in the latest year are slightly lower than the peak, at 446,924.”

Impact of Policy Changes on Student Visas

The decline appears strongly related to the January 2024 rule change, which prevents international students from bringing dependants unless enrolled in postgraduate programmes with a research focus.

Despite the relatively modest dip in visa issuances through March, this may foreshadow a more significant trend. The Home Office reported a 44% decrease in study visa applications in the first three months of 2024 compared to the same period last year.

Historical Growth and Recent Trends

This year’s downturn follows a period of significant growth in visa volumes since 2016. The growth was closely followed by an increase in visas extended to accompanying dependants. The Home Office notes, “In the year ending March 2024, there were 111,481 visas issued to student dependants, 25% fewer compared to the previous year but almost 7 times higher than in 2019. The number of dependants has grown at a faster rate than main applicants in recent years. The numbers peaked in the year ending March 2023 with around 3 dependants for every 10 main applicants. However, the number of main applicants and dependants have since fallen, with dependants decreasing at a faster rate in the first quarter (January to March) of 2024. In the year ending March 2024, one-fifth (20%) of sponsored study visas were issued to dependants.”

Breakdown of Study Visas

A significant majority of UK study visas are issued for graduate studies (66% of main applicants for the year ending March 2024), with another 25% issued for undergraduate programmes.

Key Takeaways

The recent changes in UK study visa policies and their impact on visa issuances highlight the evolving landscape for international students. Monitoring these trends is crucial for prospective students and educational institutions to understand the implications for future visa applications and enrollment strategies.

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