Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said net migration must be controlled or it could lead to “unmanageable pressures on housing, schools and hospitals in many of our communities”.
Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Sunak said: “We can’t have uncontrolled legal migration… when it is too high and too fast, it can make it difficult for communities to integrate new arrivals.
“We cannot allow people to come here illegally at the whim of criminal gangs. It’s not fair on those who have played by the rules.
“It’s not fair on those who desperately need our help but can’t get it because our asylum system is overwhelmed by people travelling here through safe countries.”
Mr Sunak said he is not “anti-immigrant”, rather, he is doing what he believes is “fair and right”.
Mr Sunak told his Cabinet that around 136,000 visas were granted to dependants in 2022, an eightfold increase from 16,000 in 2019.
In the Telegraph, Mr Sunak said: “That’s why we set a target to host 600,000 international students here and we’ve met it almost a decade early.
“But this cannot come at the expense of our commitment to lower net migration.
“We will remove the right to bring dependents on the student visa route unless you are on a postgraduate research programme. The numbers suggest this might be being used by some as a loophole so we will close it.”
Mr Sunak said he will explore alternative options for eligibility for students, like a system that could differentiate between the quality of institutions.
He said: “In time we could still allow our very best and brightest students to bring some dependents when studying at our universities while preventing institutions from selling immigration rather than education.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman told MPs on Tuesday : “This package strikes the right balance between acting decisively on tackling net migration and protecting the economic benefits that students can bring to the UK.
“Now is the time for us to make these changes to ensure an impact on net migration as soon as possible. We expect this package to have a tangible impact on net migration.
“Taken together with the easing of temporary factors, we expect net migration to fall to pre-pandemic levels in the medium term.”