Dependants’ visas: Bringing your family to the UK

This is a brief guide to some of the main visa issues for Student visa holders at Loughborough University who wish to bring family to the UK as dependants.

On 5 October 2020 Tier 4 was replaced by the Student visa route. The dependant rules are the same for holders of Tier 4 or Student visa and any references to ‘Student’ visa below include those who have Tier 4 permission.

The immigration rules do not cater for every family scenario and can be different from what you may expect.  For individual advice you are recommended to contact the Student Advice and Support Service before making any study or visa plans. 

For a detailed guide please see the information prepared by UKCISA as well as the UKVI Student  guidance which includes a section on dependants. 

The following summarises some of the most common issues. There are many requirements that need to be met in order to obtain permission as a dependant. If any of these cannot be met you may consider whether your family member can obtain immigration permission in another capacity, e.g. as a visitor or another type of visa if they meet the appropriate conditions.

Eligibility requirements

Which students can bring family?

Please note: For postgraduate students on a course that starts from January 2024 onwards there will no longer be a general ability to obtain a dependant’s visa.  This will no longer be readily available to students on taught programmes and will become mostly restricted to students on research degrees unless you can rely on alternative routes for example, being government funded or continuing/recently holding Student and dependant permission.

Not every student at Loughborough can bring family to the UK as dependants, you may bring family if:

  • You are a postgraduate student on a programme of 9 months or more (e.g. Masters or PhD).  For courses starting on or after 1 January 2024 this must be a ‘research-based degree’ (e.g. PhD or MPhil), the CAS for your Student visa must confirm ‘research’ within the level of study e.g.  RQF level 7 Research or RQF level 8 Research. Taught masters (e.g. MSc or MA) are not ‘research-based’ even though the course title or content may relate to research (e.g. MSc Social Science Research degrees), or
  • You are government funded and your course is longer than 6 months, or
  • You have or most recently held permission as a Student and your family already hold or most recently held permission as your dependants.  The Student and dependant permissions must be current or not expired more than three months earlier and you must be submitting your visa applications together.  See the UKCISA guide for fuller details on what must be met in order to satisfy this requirement, or
  • If you do not satisfy any of the above, but your child is born while you hold Student permission (or the child is born within three months of your last Student permission), it is possible for the child to obtain permission as your dependant by making an application for entry clearance.

If your circumstances fall outside the above family may still visit during studies, but such stays are limited to no longer than 6 months.  UKVI do not permit frequent and successive visits which in effect could mean the visitor route is being used to live in the UK on an ongoing basis, i.e. it is not possible to have any long term continuous residence as a visitor.  An alternative consideration may be whether family are eligible under any other UK immigration route.

Short term students with visitor permission cannot bring their family members as dependants, family may travel on visitor visa permission instead.

Which family members can be dependants?

The immigration rules only allow the following family to obtain permission as a dependant: 

  • Spouse.
  • Civil partner.
  • Unmarried or same sex partner with whom you have lived as a couple for at least two years. For any application made on or after 25 July 2023, if you have not lived together for 2 years you may still be eligible if you can show that you are in a ‘durable relationship’ similar to marriage/civil partnership for at least 2 years.  UKVI provides guidance including examples of evidence of relationship.
  • Children (must be under 18 when they first apply).

Additional requirements for spouses and partners include: 

  • You are both over 18. 
  • You are in a genuine and subsisting relationship and intend to live together. For applications made on or after 25 July 2023 there will no longer be an explicit requirement to intend to live together nevertheless such intentions may still help satisfy the visa authorities of the genuine and subsisting nature of your relationship.  UKVI guidance explains how this may be assessed.
  • Your spouse/partner does not intend to stay in the UK longer than any permission granted to you. For applications made on or after 25 July 2023 this will no longer be an explicit requirement.

For applications made on or after 25 July 2023 the rules explicitly also require:

  • That the couple have met.
  • Any marriage or civil partnership must be valid

Additional requirements for children include:

  • The child remains dependent upon you and has not formed an independent life or a separate family unit.  Children aged 16 or over need to provide documentary evidence of this in accordance with the UKVI Student guidance.
  • Your child does not intend to stay in the UK longer than any permission granted to you.
  • Both parents must also either be applying at the same time or have permission to be in the UK (other than as a visitor). There are exceptions if the other parent is dead or you have had ‘sole responsibility’ for the child’s upbringing or there are serious or compelling reasons to grant the child’s visa and suitable childcare arrangements will be available in the UK.

Family developments while in the UK

Babies born in the UK as part of a Student’s family do not necessarily have to obtain immigration permission to stay, however:

  • The baby would likely need immigration permission to ever re-enter the UK.
  • Any NHS hospital treatment may be charged beyond the age of 3 months (unless the immigration health surcharge has been paid as part of a successful immigration application).

An application for a dependant baby born in the UK can be made separately while the baby is in the UK or overseas before returning to the UK.

If a child born in the UK cannot satisfy the Student dependant rules it may be possible to obtain alternative immigration permission as the child of a parent who holds leave to be in the UK.

Where a qualifying partner or spouse relationship is established while you are in the UK it may be possible for the partner to switch from a current visa to dependant while remaining in the UK or otherwise apply for entry clearance before travelling to the UK.

Financial requirements

If a dependant is extending or switching status in the UK and has lived in the UK for at least 12 months immediately prior to the application with valid immigration permission throughout that time, they will automatically meet the financial requirement without needing to provide evidence. UKVI guidance explains that holidays and short absences from the UK do not break the 12-month period. However, if an applicant has not been based in the UK for a significant part of the 12 months, for example for at least 3 months, they will not meet the requirement.

Otherwise the amount of money that may need to be shown in a dependant’s visa application is based upon:

  • Whether you are studying at Loughborough or London (£680 or £845 per month per dependant respectively)
  • The length of visa that may be issued. Up to a maximum of 9 months maintenance may be required.

If you are relying on cash funds to show there is enough money available for your family’s maintenance the total amount required needs to be held throughout a 28-day period up to the date of application. The evidence of funds, e.g. bank statements, cannot be more than 31 days old on the date of application.

Your spouse/partner can rely on funds held by you or themselves (or both if necessary). Children can rely on funds held by you or the other parent in certain circumstances. As a Student you may rely on funds held by your parent(s) but such funds cannot be used to show maintenance for your dependant(s).

If official financial sponsorship is paid in respect of your family's living costs any sponsorship letter should name each family member who is supported. It is simpler and generally preferable for an official financial sponsor’s letter to confirm it is meeting all the living costs of a dependant rather than specify individual amounts for different types of expenditure.

If you receive official financial sponsorship, but the amount for each dependant is not enough or not all dependants are supported you may supplement this with evidence of personal funds to meet any shortfall.

The UKVI Student guidance explains how certain nationals who are applying at the same time as a Student who also holds one of the listed nationalities may not be required to provide evidence of maintenance but it is advisable to have this evidence ready in case it is subsequently requested by the visa authorities.

The application process

How do dependants apply?

Dependants may apply at the same time as the Student or following the grant of the Student’s visa. In order to retain eligibility some dependants have to apply at the same time as the Student (see ‘eligibility requirements’ above). If children are applying you may also need to consider the timing of both parents’ applications.

The dependant’s application will likely need to give details of the Student e.g. their visa application reference number, passport details, CAS number, the University’s Sponsor Licence Number G9M4TDXV1.

The Student Advice and Support Service can help check a draft application and supporting documents – seek advice before you finish and submit the application.

Entry clearance applications outside the UK

Entry clearance applications outside the UK are usually made online.  Select the ‘Dependant Partner’ or ‘Dependant child’ option as appropriate for each application. 

Visa switching or extension applications in the UK

Visa switching or extension applications in the UK are also usually made online.

  • When family apply at the same time as a Student who is not using the ‘ID Check app’ route (explained in our Student guide), they can be added to the Student application
  • Otherwise  the application can be made as a ‘partner’ or ‘child’ from the relevant link given here.

Certain visas including visitor, short-term students, parent of a child student do not permit switching to stay as a dependant, in these circumstances the dependant would be required to return home and apply for entry clearance.

Application costs

Each dependant pays the same visa application fees as a Student. Similarly, the Immigration Health Surcharge will be charged for each dependant on the same basis as a Student i.e. £776 per year (£388 per 6 months) depending on the length of visa to be granted.

How can the University support you?

You can find guidance on various visa topics on the University’s webpages. These webpages include the most common visa related topics, questions and issues.

You should always use the webpages first however if you require advice or guidance beyond what is covered on the webpages you can contact the Student Advice and Support Service. 

Last Updated: 27th February 2024