Bringing your family

Only some types of student visa holders can bring family to the UK as dependants, and only some types of family member count as dependants.

Dependants and student visa permission

Rules about dependants are complex and the following information is for guidance only.

Please visit the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) policy guidance for complete explanations and definitions. If you have specific questions, please contact our Immigration Advisers.

Which students are eligible to apply to have their dependants join them in the UK?

You must be one of the following:

  • A government-sponsored student studying on a course of more than six months in length
  • Studying a postgraduate course which is at least nine months in length and, if the course start date is on or after 1 January 2024, is a PhD, other doctoral qualification or a research-based higher degree (please be aware that UWE Bristol's MRes programmes are not considered research-based for visa purposes)
  • A student who has, or had within the last three months before the date of application, permission to study on a full-time course of six months or longer, and is now applying for permission to study a full-time course of six months or longer where one of the following requirements applies:
    • the partner or child already has, or had within the last three months before the date of application, permission as a dependent partner or dependent child of the student
    • the child was born since the last grant of permission to the student, where the student and partner or child are applying at the same time.

If your dependant is a child, and you do not meet any of the three requirements above, the child must instead meet one of the following requirements:

  • They must have been born during your current period of permission to study a full-time course of six months or longer and they are applying for permission during that period.
  • If you have permission to re-sit examinations or repeat a module of a full-time course of six months or longer, they must have been born during one of the following times:
    • your original period of permission
    • the period of permission granted for re-sitting examinations or to repeat a module.

Or they must have been born no more than three months after the expiry of your most recent permission and must be making an application for entry clearance (that is, applying outside the UK) within six months of the expiry of your most recent permission.

Guidance for dependants

Applying outside the UK

  • Each dependant must apply separately.
  • The application is online
  • The fee is £490.
  • The Immigration Health Surcharge is £778 per year of permission.
  • Applicants will be asked for the student’s course details and CAS number.
  • No documents from UWE Bristol are required, as the university is not the sponsor.
  • You will be asked for evidence of your relationship – for example birth or marriage certificate.
  • Unless allowed to use the UK Immigration: ID Check app, applicants musty make an appointment to submit biometric data.
  • Successful applicants will receive an entry clearance (a ‘vignette’ or sticker in their passport) enabling them to enter the UK within a strict period. They then collect their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) which shows their whole permission and conditions. In order to collect the BRP from UWE Bristol, enter the alternative collection location code (which appears on the CAS) in the online application.

Applying inside the UK

  • A dependant can apply in the UK if they already have Student/Tier 4 dependant permission or another type of visa excluding the following:
    • visitor
    • short-term student
    • parent of a Tier 4 (Child)
    • seasonal worker
    • domestic worker in a private household
    • outside the Immigration Rules 
  • The fee is £490.
  • The Immigration Health Surcharge is £470 per year of permission.
  • A dependant can apply using the same form, and at the same time, as the main applicant. But if applying separately, follow the family members link on gov.uk.
  • Applicants will be asked for the student’s course details and CAS number
  • Applicants must make an appointment to submit biometric data.
  • You will be asked for evidence of your relationship – for example birth or marriage certificate if you have not provided it in support of previous applications.
  • If you have provided it previously, you must submit only evidence that your relationship is ‘subsisting.’ This can consist of formal letters addressed to both the student and dependant at the same location.
  • The BRP will be delivered to the correspondence address you enter in the application form.

Arrangements for children

Children born in the UK

  • If you or your partner (as Student/Tier 4 + Dependant) become pregnant and/or expect your child to be born in the UK, you should contact us at immigrationadvice@uwe.ac.uk for advice.
  • The length of any permitted interruption to your studies is limited. Any absence longer than 60 days may require you to leave the UK and re-apply for a visa to return.
  • Birth in the UK does not automatically confer British citizenship, which is dependent on parentage.
  • There is no obligation for your UK-born child to have a visa. But they will need a visa to return to the UK if they leave. With possible travel in mind, consider applying for a passport on their behalf.
  • However – not having a visa can affect your child’s access to health care after the age of 3 months. Contact us at immigrationadvice@uwe.ac.uk for further advice.

Schooling

  • Dependent children aged 5 to 16 are allowed to attend state schools. They must be in the UK as your dependant.
  • You will not be charged for access to primary and secondary education.
  • Please be aware that admission to a school is at the discretion of the school, local authority or academy concerned, and cannot be guaranteed. The relevant government web page contains general information about school admissions in England.

Other visas

If your dependants – or any other friends or family members – want to visit you in the UK but are ineligible, or do not wish to apply, for a Dependant visa, they should enter as visitors.

  • The maximum length of a visit is six months.
  • Visitors are not allowed to work.
  • A visit cannot be extended.
  • UWE Bristol does not sponsor or issue invitations to visitors. But we are happy to provide a template letter of invitation for students to use.
  • Visa nationals must apply for a visa in advance. Non-visa nationals can seek entry as visitors on arrival.

Work

Most dependants (with a few rare exceptions) are eligible to work in the UK. There are fewer restrictions on the hours and type of work than apply to students.

  • There is no limit to the weekly hours dependants can work.
  • Dependants are free to be self-employed.
  • They must not work as sports professionals.
  • They may be forbidden to work as doctors or dentists in training (depending on when their visa was granted).

If your dependant BRP reads ‘no work’ or similar, and you think this is a mistake, you can ask for it to be corrected. Contact us at immigrationadvice@uwe.ac.uk directly.

Study

Dependants are free to study.

  • Please be aware that it is the dependant’s responsibility to ensure their visa is long enough to complete any proposed course of study.
  • If a dependant needs more time to start or complete a course of study than their visa allows, they can switch to a Student visa within the UK, subject to meeting academic progress requirements if they have previously held student or Tier 4 leave.
  • The sponsoring institution may not allow a dependant to register before the switch to Student status is complete and the new visa is in their possession.

Other key information for dependants

Length

A dependant’s permission should expire on the same date as the student’s. If there is a discrepancy, please contact us at immigrationadvice@uwe.ac.uk for advice.

Services

Because application for a dependant visa entails payment of the Immigration Health Surcharge, a dependant can access the NHS in the same way as a student.

Funds

Students and their dependants cannot access public funds. Public funds include most benefits paid by the government, but do not include access to state education or the NHS, or entitlement to council tax discount.

Who qualifies as a dependant for a student visa?

Partner

Your partner is a person who must be at least 18 years old and with whom you intend to live while you are in the UK. They must not intend to stay longer than the student. They must be your husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner or same-sex partner. Under certain circumstances, a partner can also be a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner. In the case of an unmarried or same-sex partner, you should have been living together in a relationship 'similar to marriage or civil partnership for a period of at least two years' before you make your immigration application.

In all cases UKVI will expect you to provide evidence that your relationship is genuine and, if applicable, that you meet the two year requirement above.

See Immigration Rules Appendix Relationship with Partner and Relationship with a partner: caseworker guidance on GOV.UK for more details.

Children

Your child must be under 18 (unless they are applying to extend their Dependant visa in the UK) at the date of application, and must not have formed their own family or be leading an independent life or be employed full time. They must also be financially and emotionally dependent on their parents. They must not intend to stay in the UK longer than the student. 

Both parents must be coming to the UK. There are exceptions to this rule if you have sole responsibility for the child, and UKVI will request supporting evidence (such as death or divorce certificates).

See Immigration Rules - Appendix Children and Appendix Children: caseworker guidance on GOV.UK for more detailed guidance, particularly if at lease one of the people with parental responsibility is not a natural parent. 

No other family member or associate is allowed to be a dependant.

Money and evidence of funds

If your dependant has been in the UK for 12 months or more with immigration permission when they apply in the UK, they will not be asked to provide financial evidence.

If you receive official financial sponsorship – for example your fees and/or living costs are paid by a government, international company, organisation or university – you can ask your sponsor to cover your dependant’s living costs. A formal letter which meets Home Office requirements will be requested.

All other applicants are self-funding and must show that they have enough money to support themselves in the UK. Each dependant must hold living costs of £680/month for each month of the permission the student already has, or will have (if applying at the same time) up to a maximum of nine months (£6,120). 

Please be particularly careful if you are extending your visa for a short period (such as two months). If your dependant is required to provide financial evidence, you must add your 'wrap-up' period (typically four months) to calculate your dependant's living costs. If you are in any doubt, please contact an Immigration Adviser.

Evidence of funds

Evidence of funds must show that the applicant has met the financial requirement for every day of a 28-day period to the closing balance date, in either the main applicant's or the dependant's account. If the dependant is a child, the money can be held by the student or by the child’s other parent if that parent is applying at the same time or already has immigration permission (not including Visitor status).

The final day of the 28 day period must be no more than 31 days before the date of application. 

If the applicant has been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship by a Government or international scholarship agency covering both fees and living costs in the last 12 months, they must provide written consent to the application from that Government or agency.

Please see our visa documentation page for information about acceptable ways of holding funds and the format of the paperwork that will be requested.

Differentiation arrangements

Certain nationalities qualify for differentiation arrangements and will not be asked for financial evidence in the first instance if they are applying at the same time as the student. These are also known as ‘low risk nationals.’ The list appears in para. ST 22.1 of Appendix Student of the Immigration Rules, and consists of all EEA countries plus over 30 others including China, Malaysia, Thailand and the USA.

The Home Office reserves the right to request financial evidence at any point in the application process, so even though evidence will not necessarily be requested at the time of submission, nationals of these countries (who have not been resident in the UK for more than 12 months) are advised to ensure the funds are in place and that they meet requirements.

Further information

For full details of the criteria and application process for dependants visit the UKCISA web pages. If you have any questions, please contact an Immigration Adviser.