Dependants and Student Visas overseas

This page outlines what to do if you are applying for a visa outside the UK as a dependant of a student migrant.



Where you are already in the UK and you are applying for a visa as a Student Dependant, or on behalf of a dependant of yours, visit the page below:

Course requirement rules before 1 January 2024

If your course started before 1 January 2024, your dependants can apply if you are:

  • Government-sponsored and your course is full-time and longer than six months, or
  • Doing a full-time postgraduate course (at RQF level 7 on the Ofqual Register) and that course is nine months or longer.
  • Studying at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance, which includes the University of Sheffield
  • The student’s current or most recent immigration permission was as a student on a full-time course lasting at least six months and all four 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 either 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 last grant of permission, and;
    • you are applying for immigration permission at the same time as your dependant

If your child dependant does not meet the above, they must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Be a child 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, or any period granted to for resitting examinations or repeating modules, or;
  • the child must have been born no more than 3 months after the expiry of your most recent permission and must be making an application for entry clearance within 6 months of the expiry of their parent’s most recent permission.

 If your course started before 1 January 2024, your dependants can still apply to join you or extend their visas after 1 January 2024.

New course requirement rules from 1 January 2024

If your course start date is after 1 January 2024, you can have dependants if you are studying either:

  • a PhD or other Doctoral qualification (RQF level 8), or;
  • a research based higher degree (RQF level 7-RESEARCH).

The definition of 'research-based course' includes PhDs and MPhils and Masters of Research (MRES).

If your course is 'research-based' then your CAS statement should include the letters 'RE' in the 'Academic Level' section (eg 'RQF 7 - RE'). This will confirm that you are studying a research-based level, and should satisfy UKVI requirements.

Contact ISSAC if you need further advice.

Who can be a dependant:

  • a husband or wife
  • a civil partner. Civil partners are same-sex or opposite-sex couples who have registered their partnership and who have thereby gained formal legal recognition of their relationship.  Schedule 20 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 provides a list of partnerships in countries outside the UK that are automatically treated as civil partnerships by the UK government
  • an unmarried partner or same-sex partner.  In both cases, you need to 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 visa application. You will need to provide comprehensive evidence of this
  • a child who is younger than 18 years old when they apply (if applying for the first time). Refer to the Child Application section below

How to apply from overseas

Step 1: Online application

Any dependants (spouse/partner and or children) applying at the same time as the student migrant will need to complete a separate application form and pay the application fees separately. You cannot add dependants to the Student visa application form when applying for the visa outside the UK.

Dependants must complete the online application:

Step 2: Immigration Health Surcharge

During the application, dependants will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge:

Step 3: Supporting documents

The following supporting documents must be submitted in support of the application:

  • Current passport for the dependant
  • Evidence of sufficient funds to meet criteria* – (if the student migrant is receiving official financial sponsorship, your name must appear on their sponsor letter for the funds to be considered as being available to you)
  • Certificate of Student Status for the Student migrant
  • TB Certificate (if applicable) for each dependant
  • Documents to show that children aged 16 or over are not leading an independent life
  • Signed letter from the Student migrant inviting their family to live with them as a dependant
  • Evidence of dependants relationship to the Student migrant (original marriage/birth certificates - if the applicant has not been granted a dependant visa using this document before)
  • Document(s) to show that partners have lived at the same address as the Student (eg bank statements, utility bills), if the dependent partner and the Student migrant are not married or in a civil partnership, this evidence needs to cover a two year period. This can help demonstrate that the relationship is genuine and subsisting.
  • Evidence of sole responsibility or serious and compelling circumstances and appropriate care (if applicable)
  • Evidence the dependant has consent from their previous financial sponsor to extend their visa in the UK- ONLY if the dependant has been fully sponsored (receiving both fees and living costs) from a government or international scholarship agency in the 12 months before the visa application is being submitted.
  • A copy of the Student migrant's passport and visa
  • A letter of consent signed by all parent(s) that have responsibility for any dependent child submitting an application. It must confirm:
    • The relationship between parent(s) and child;
    • Whether one or both parents have responsibility for the child;
    • That both or all parents responsible for the child consent to the child making this visa application; and
    • The address where the child will be living, whether it is the same address that the parent(s) live at and that both or all parents responsible for the child consent to the child's living arrangements in the UK

Download Letter of Consent template (PDF, 68KB)

* Evidence of funds & differentiation arrangement 


This applies where:

  • The dependant is applying at the same time as the Student migrant; and
  • The dependant and Student migrant submit the visa application either in the country in which they both live or their country of nationality; and
  • Both the Dependant and the Student migrant are nationals of a country listed in paragraph 22.1 of the immigration rules

Where this applies, you will not need to submit evidence of funds with your visa application. You will need to ensure you have held funds that meet the requirements in case UKVI ask for the documents later in the visa process.

Step 4: Obtain BRP

Dependants will need to have their fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre to obtain their BRP.

Your dependants will get a vignette in their passport, valid for three months which will allow them to enter the UK.

Your BRP must be obtained within ten days of arriving in the UK. 

Check the BRP for any errors in length of leave or conditions and report any immediately.

Child applications

Dependant children must be under the age of 18 on the date of the visa application.

Children can only apply to join a student migrant where:

  • Both parents are present in the UK (with a valid visa); or
  • Both parents are applying at the same time as the dependant; or
  • One parent is present in the UK and the other is applying at the same time as the dependant. The parent in the UK should not hold a visitor visa.

Sole responsibility

Where the student migrant is a single parent, children can only apply where:

  • The other parent is dead; or
  • You have had sole responsibility for the child’s upbringing; or
  • There are serious and compelling family or other considerations and suitable arrangements have been made for the child’s care

You cannot bring your child to the UK as your dependant without the other parent also joining you, unless you can demonstrate that you have sole responsibility.

Sole responsibility means you are the only person responsible for the child’s upbringing and can make all the important decisions about the child’s life. 

It is common to see Dependant visa refusals based on the sole responsibility issue, so it is important that you understand what this is and provide evidence to support your application.

Here are some factors which may be considered in assessing sole responsibility

  • Are the parents married/in a civil partnership?
  • If the marriage/civil partnership is dissolved – which parent has legal custody?
  • How long has the parent had sole responsibility for the child's upbringing?
  • If the sponsoring parent is in the UK, how long have they been separated from the child and who is looking after the child in their home country?
  • Who is financially responsible for the child?
  • Who makes the important decisions about the child’s upbringing, for example where the child lives, which school they attend?

If you are still in a relationship with the other parent, it is very unlikely that you will be able to show that you have sole responsibility

UKVI will want to see official legal documents which demonstrate that you have sole responsibility, for example court documents showing you have sole custody following a divorce or legal separation. 

If the other parent is deceased, you should provide the death certificate.

UKVI will not usually accept an affidavit from the other parent stating that you have sole responsibility.

If the other parent is still in your children’s life then they will need to provide consent for you to bring the child.

If you are currently separated from the child you will need to show that they are not in the care of the other parent.

If you are required to provide evidence of sole responsibility you may wish to obtain further advice from an immigration specialist. University Immigration Advisers can provide general guidance about this issue.

Serious and compelling considerations

If you do not have sole responsibility you will need to show that there are other serious and compelling considerations which means that it is in the child’s best interest to accompany you. 

An example could be that the other parent is ill and unable to take care of them in your home country or the other parent is on active military service and based overseas. You will need to provide documentary evidence and it will be assessed in line with the caseworker guidance below.

UKVI guidance on Serious and Compelling Considerations (PDF, 197kb)

If you are applying to bring the children without the other parent, you will  need to show evidence that you have adequate care arrangements in place. This will depend on age of children but could be confirmation about childcare provision or signed statements from other family or friends who will help take care of the children. 

You are expected to study on a full time basis and postgraduate courses can be intensive and demanding. You should carefully consider how you will be able to balance the requirements of your course with looking after your children, especially without the usual support networks you may have in place in your home country. You will also need to ensure you have adequate funds to cover childcare costs.

See the information for students with dependants which includes information on family accommodation, schools and childcare options in Sheffield. 

Dependant support letter

If you are the student sponsoring your dependants, you could provide a supporting letter for their application. This can be uploaded together with other supporting documents to help your dependant explain how they meet the eligibility requirements. This could also include additional information about your relationship, sole responsibility, any serious or compelling consideration and care arrangements.

See the template support letter below. This is for general guidance only and you should amend it to suit your circumstances

Template support letter

 See also:

Applying for a Student Visa outside the UK

UKVI immigration rules: students and dependants

Contact International Student Support

Request a Certificate of Student Status