Bringing your family (dependants) while you study


You can apply to bring a dependant to the UK if you are:

  • Studying a PhD, other doctoral qualification, or a research-based higher degree course of more than 9 months this includes Masters by Research and MPhil but NOT MRes;
  • a Government sponsored student on a full-time course of 6 months or longer

If you previously started a postgraduate course of more than 9 months before 1st January 2024 your dependants can still apply to join you in the UK before your visa expires.

This means from 1st January 2024 you cannot bring dependants to the UK if you will be studying an undergraduate or postgraduate taught programme (unless you are sponsored by your Government)

If you meet these requirements your dependants can apply at the same time as you, or separately. If your family member is currently living in the UK with a different type of visa e.g. Student/Tier 4, Skilled Worker/Tier 2 they may be able to switch into the dependant route from inside the UK. Please contact us for further advice about this.

You must intend to live with your dependant(s) in the UK so this should be stated in your visa application form (you do not need to provide evidence of where you will live).

You should read the dependant section of the Student immigration rules from paragraph ST28.2 before your dependant applies for their visa.

Your dependant(s) will be granted a visa for the same duration as you and they will be granted permission to work unless you are studying a course that is below degree level. Your dependant(s) will also be permitted to study in the UK but if they study a course that requires ATAS clearance they must acquire one before starting the course. 

Who is considered a dependant

A dependant is either:

  • your husband, or wife;
  • your civil partner (same sex or opposite sex couple who have registered their partnership and obtained legal recognition of their relationship with a civil partnership certificate);
  • unmarried or same sex partner, with whom you have been living with in a relationship similar to marriage for at least 2 years;
  • your child who is under 18 when they apply for the visa

If you are not married or in a civil partnership with your dependant, you will need to provide evidence that your relationship is genuine and subsisting. There is no longer a requirement for you to show that you have lived with your partner for 2 years. The requirements for unmarried partners can be found in Appendix Relationship with a Partner so we would advise you to read this section of the immigration rules. You also need to read the UKVI Guidance on Relationship with a Partner to understand what types of evidence UKVI will accept. 

Additional rules for child dependants

You can only bring children to the UK as your dependant if both parents are going to be living in the UK. This means that if your partner is going to remain living outside the UK your child cannot join you in the UK unless:-

  • you are the only parent;
  • you have ‘sole responsibility’ for the child;
  • there are serious compelling reasons preventing your partner from living with you in the UK and you have made suitable arrangements for your child’s care,

If you are relying on any of these exemptions your dependant must provide evidence with their application. You cannot use an affidavit as evidence that you have sole custody of your child; you would require court documentation as evidence of this. You would also need to submit evidence of the care arrangements you have made for your child in the UK eg. school or nursery place. Please contact us if this applies to you so we can advise you on the required documents.

To qualify as a dependant your child must not have formed an independent family unit or be leading an independent life which means:-

  • they live with you unless they are attending boarding school or University in the UK;
  • they are not employed full-time;
  • they do not have a spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner;
  • they must be dependent on your for financial support

If your child is 16 or 17 on the date they apply for their visa they need to submit evidence that they are not living an independent life such as evidence that they are living with you e.g. NHS letter, bank statement or an official letter from their school or college. If your child is not living with you because they are attending boarding school or University they will need to provide evidence of their address along with evidence that you are still financially supporting them