Skip to main content

Students with families

Last updated: 21/05/2024 09:33

Find out what you'll need to do to bring your family with you for a visit or the duration of your studies.

Helping you move to Cardiff

If your family members will accompany you to Cardiff for a few days to help you settle into your new life, they will likely need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa in advance.

The GOV.UK website will help you to determine whether your family needs to obtain a visitor visa before they travel to the UK. It also contains guidance on the type of visa they might need.

Living with you for the duration of your studies

Not all students can bring dependants with them to the UK, and not all family members are classified as dependants to apply for a visa.

Only your:

  • spouse (husband or wife)
  • civil partner
  • unmarried partner
  • children under 18

Can apply to join you as your dependants.

A civil partner is someone you have entered into a legally recognized relationship with. An unmarried partner is someone with whom you have been in a relationship akin to marriage and lived together with for two years or more.

If your child is aged 18 or over, they must have or have last been granted, leave as your dependant to still qualify as your dependant. They must not be living an independent life. Children aged 18 or over who have not previously been granted permission as a dependant cannot be granted permission.

Both child's parents must be coming to the UK (although neither parent can hold the immigration permission of 'visitor'). There are some very limited exceptions to this including if one parent has died or when one parent has sole responsibility for the child. In such circumstances, evidence will need to be submitted with the dependant's visa application and it will be up to the individual caseworker assessing the application whether to grant a visa for the child.

Additional rules for child dependants are outlined below.

Your dependants can only join you in the UK if you meet the following rules:

  • You are doing a postgraduate level course of 9 months or longer and, where this course began on or after 1 January 2024, your course is a PhD or a research-based higher degree, or
  • You are government sponsored and your course is longer than 6 months in duration, or
  • Your current or most recent immigration permission was as a Student on a full-time course lasting at least six months AND all four bullet points below apply:
    • your permission is current or expired no more than three months before this immigration application AND
    • your new immigration application is for a full-time course that is at least six months AND
    • your dependant already has Student dependant immigration permission (or it is the most recent immigration permission that they had, and it expired no more than three months before this application); or is your child who was born since you were last granted permission AND
    • you apply for immigration permission at the same time as your dependant

If you are doing an English pre-sessional course and then a postgraduate level course of 9 months or longer, and you have been given a joint CAS to cover both courses then your family members can apply to join you in the UK.

Students who will be studying in the UK for six months or less cannot bring their dependants with them.

How your dependants can apply for a visa

Your dependants must apply for 'entry clearance' from the British Embassy or a visa application centre in their home country before they travel to the UK.

Each dependant must complete a separate application form and pay a fee, in local currency.

They need to apply online.

Before starting the application, you should read the information on the Home Office website, and especially the Student Caseworking Guidance.

If you meet the Student rules to bring dependants and your family are already in the UK as your dependants, they can apply to stay in the UK with you.  They can apply inside the UK before their visa expires (this date should match your visa end date) or they can apply outside the UK.

If your family are in the UK with different immigration permission but the requirements for them to be your dependants are met, then they can become your dependant from within the UK as long as they are not here with permission as a visitor, with short-term student leave, immigration bail or leave outside the immigration rules.

For a complete list of categories not permitted to switch, check UKCISA guidance.

Dependants make either an entry clearance application (at a UK Visa Application Centre (VAC)) or a visa extension application (extending their Dependant Visa within the UK) application with the following documents:

Application form

Passport(s): Submit any passports that they have ever used to enter the UK.

Proof of current dependant leave if applicable

TB test certificate (if applicable). A certificate will only be valid for 6 months from the date of your x-ray.

Financial evidence: showing that your dependants can meet the maintenance requirements (see below). If you and your dependant have been in the UK with a valid visa for longer than 12 months and are applying for your visa in the UK, you are not required to provide any financial evidence.

However, if there have been any significant absences from the UK of more than 3 months within this 12-month period, you will be required to provide financial evidence.

Proof of address: If the dependant child is 16 years or older, they need to show two extra documents dated within the last month to confirm their residential address. (Further information below.)

Proof of relationship: This is only a requirement for dependants applying outside the UK or those who wish to switch from a different category of leave to become a PBS dependant from within the UK. These dependants must show proof of relationship to the student, such as marriage and full birth certificates.

Proof of genuine relationship: You and your dependant partner must prove your relationship is genuine and subsisting.

For PBS dependant applications being made for the first time from overseas, we would suggest submitting as much evidence as possible, for example, and depending on your individual circumstances, this could include:

  • evidence of correspondence during times apart, for example, phone bills, text messages, Whatsapp messages, letters, emails etc.
  • evidence of living together if applicable
  • a timeline/history of your relationship and letters of support, photographs of yourselves together, perhaps while on holiday, or at any other significant events

The Home Office may also require you and your dependant partner to attend interviews.

If dependants are applying from outside the UK at a different time from the student, they should also provide:

  • Proof of student's visa status: copies of the student's current visa and passport details pages.
  • Proof of student's enrolment: a student status letter from your SIMs online account.
  • An explanation of why they did not join the student at the start of their course if applicable (job commitment in home country for example).
  • Your dependants’ visas will be granted until your own visa expires. If you need to extend your visa, then they will also need to extend theirs.
  • Family members of students can work (in line with UK employment law) in the UK when the main applicant is:
    • in receipt of an award from a Government and taking a full-time course that is at least six months OR
    • taking a full-time graduate level or above course of 9 months or longer at a 'higher education provider' with a track record of compliance' (Cardiff University meets this definition)
  • Dependants who are permitted to work can do almost any type of work, but they must not work as a professional sportsperson, which includes being a sports coach. If their permission as a Tier 4 partner was decided before 5 October 2020, they must not work as a doctor or dentist in training (though there are some exemptions to this)
  • They will not be able to access public funds including Child Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
  • Children of compulsory school age (5-16) are eligible to attend state funded schools.

Maintenance requirements

Dependants applying overseas or who have been in the UK for less than 12 months must show they hold a specific level of funds for the period of leave they are requesting, up to a maximum of 9 months. This is different from the requirements for students, who only have to show funds for the duration of their course, up to a maximum of 9 months.

Evidence is usually provided in the form of bank statements. The funds must have been held for 28 consecutive days before the application being submitted and must be from an officially regulated financial institution. The statement must not be dated more than 31 days before submitting the application.

The amount of money that each dependant must show is as follows:

£680 for each month of immigration permission you have been granted (if your dependants are applying after you have received your permission) or will be granted (if your dependants are applying at the same time as you). This is up to a maximum of 9 months (therefore, a maximum figure of £6,120).

The number of months of immigration permission granted to a student depends on the type, and length, of the course. Dependents of students are granted the same length of time as the student.

Type/length of courseLength of stay allowed
12 months or moreThe full length of the course +4 months after the end of your course
Six months or more but less than 12 monthsThe full length of the course +2 months after the end of your course
Pre-sessional course of less than six monthsThe full length of the course +1 month after the end of your course
Course of less than six months that is not a pre-sessional courseThe full length of the course +7 days after the end of your course
Postgraduate doctor or dentist

The full length of the course +1 month after the end of your course

If you are financially sponsored by an official sponsor (such as a government) and they are also providing funds for your dependants, then you will need a letter from them confirming this. The name of each dependant must be included. Read the Student Caseworking Guidance carefully to ensure that your sponsor’s letter meets the UKVI requirements and that the maintenance requirement is met. If your sponsor is not providing the full required amount of money for the required duration for all of your dependants, then you will need to provide a bank statement to meet the shortfall.

The Home Office is particular about the format of documents. Ensure that you read the section on maintenance and that your documents are acceptable.

More general information about family member visa applications can be found on the Home Office website.

Additional rules for child dependants

The Immigration Rules state that you can only bring your child/children with you to the UK if both parents are going to be in the UK. This means that if your partner is going to stay outside the UK, your child /children cannot join you.

The exceptions to this are if you:

  • are the only living parent; or
  • have 'sole responsibility' for your child/children; or
  • there are serious compelling reasons which mean the child should be with you in the UK and you have made suitable arrangements for the child's care.

The rules also state that to qualify as a 'child' they must 'not be living an independent life'. Read the Student Caseworking Guidance for further details.

If you are in a position where both parents are not going to be in the UK, contact us via Student Connect for further advice regarding the types of documents you could include with your application. It is important that evidence is included with your application to show you are relying on one of the above exceptions.

If your child is 16 years or older on the date of the decision, they will have to provide additional documents as described on pages 101-102 of the Home Office's Student Caseworking Guidance.

Please note if your child is not yet aged 16 on the date they apply for their dependant visa but it is likely that they will turn 16 before the application is decided, they should provide the additional documents.

If you (or your partner) are pregnant or you have given birth to a baby in the UK, you may need to apply for a Dependant Visa for them depending on your travel and future immigration plans. If a baby is born in the UK, you do not need to apply for immigration permission (a visa) for the baby unless your baby needs to re-enter the UK after travelling abroad.

You may have concerns about the health care available to your little one in the UK. Further information about health care available in the UK for dependants can be found on UKCISA’s website.

If you are in the UK as a Student or a Tier 4 (General) Student, you can apply inside the UK for your baby if you meet the requirements to have dependants, listed at the top of this page.

You will need the following documents in order to make a visa application for your baby:

  • baby passport, if your baby cannot obtain a passport please contact Student Visa Support to discuss further.
  • birth certificate (full version that lists the names of both parents.)
  • evidence of funding either in the form of bank statements or an official financial sponsorship letter
  • photocopy of both parents’ passport details page and UK visas
  • student status letter for the parent studying at Cardiff University
  • proof that both parents are in the UK: 2 forms of address naming both parents (e.g. bank statement, credit card statement, driving licence, NHS registration document, council tax or utility bill in joint names).

For further information regarding dependants and their eligibility for Graduate Route dependant leave please read the dependant family members section of our Graduate Route information page.

Information and advice

UKCISA (the UK Council for International Student Affairs) has a useful section on its website that offers good advice to students wanting to bring dependents to the UK.

If you have further queries after reading this page and the UKCISA guidance, don't hesitate to contact us.

Student Connect