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13 November 2023

6 minutes read

Can My Spouse Work in the UK While I Study? Navigating Dependant Visa Rules for International Students in 2023

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Understanding the UK Student Visa and Dependant Visa in 2023

The United Kingdom, known for its prestigious educational institutions, attracts a vast number of international students each year. If you’re planning to study in the UK, understanding the nuances of student visas and the rights and restrictions for your dependents, primarily your spouse, is crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the details of the UK student visa and dependant visa as of 2023, focusing on a key query: Can my spouse work in the UK while I study?

The Basics of the UK Student Visa and Dependant Visa

The UK Student Visa: A Gateway for International Students

The UK student visa is specifically designed for non-UK nationals who wish to undertake a course of study in the country. As an international student, you must apply for this visa if you intend to study a full-time course in the UK. The visa application involves several criteria, including admission to a UK institution, proof of English language proficiency, and sufficient financial resources.

Understanding the Dependant Visa

A dependant visa in the UK allows spouses and children (under 18) of a student visa holder to stay in the UK during the student’s course duration. The dependant visa is closely linked to the student visa, meaning the rights and status of your dependants largely depend on your student visa conditions.

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Eligibility for Spouses to Work in the UK on a Dependant Visa

Conditions for Work Eligibility

Can my spouse work in the UK while I study? Yes, they can, provided certain conditions are met. If you are enrolled in a postgraduate level course or you are a government-sponsored student, and your course duration is more than 9 months, your spouse is generally allowed to work without any restrictions. This means they can seek employment in any sector, except as a professional sportsperson or sports coach.

Restrictions and Limitations

It’s important to note that if you’re pursuing an undergraduate course or your course duration is less than 9 months, your spouse’s ability to work might be limited or prohibited. Therefore, understanding the specific conditions of your course and visa is essential.

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The Application Process for a UK Dependant Visa

Applying for a UK Dependant Visa involves several steps, each crucial for a successful application. Understanding this process in detail can help ensure that you navigate it efficiently and effectively. Here’s a breakdown of the key steps:

  1. Eligibility Check:
    • Ensure that your situation meets the criteria for a dependent visa. Typically, dependants are spouses, partners, or children under 18.
    • Verify that the primary visa holder (the student) is enrolled in a full-time course at a postgraduate level or higher, or a government-sponsored course.
  2. Gathering Necessary Documents:
    • Prepare essential documents, including current passports, proof of relationship (like marriage certificates or birth certificates for children), and financial evidence showing sufficient funds.
    • Collect additional supporting documents, such as proof of accommodation in the UK and the student’s Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).
  3. Completing the Online Application:
    • Fill out the application form on the UK government’s official visa and immigration website.
    • Ensure all details are accurate and correspond with the documents you are submitting.
  4. Paying the Application Fee and Health Surcharge:
    • Pay the required visa application fee, which varies based on the visa type and duration.
    • Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge to access the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
  5. Biometric Information Submission:
    • Book an appointment at a visa application center to provide biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph).
    • Attend the appointment and ensure all required biometrics are submitted.
  6. Interview and Additional Information:
    • In some cases, attend an interview where you’ll be asked about your plans in the UK and your relationship with the primary visa holder.
    • Be prepared to provide additional information if requested by the visa officers.
  7. Visa Decision Waiting Period:
    • After submitting your application, there will be a waiting period while your application is processed.
    • The duration of this period can vary, so it’s important to apply well in advance of your intended travel date.
  8. Receiving the Visa Decision:
    • Once your application is processed, you’ll be informed of the decision.
    • If successful, you’ll receive your visa, which will outline the terms of your stay, including work rights and duration of stay.
  9. Planning Your Travel:
    • Upon receiving the visa, plan your travel to the UK, ensuring you comply with the arrival guidelines stipulated on your visa.
  10. Arriving in the UK:
    • Upon arrival, you may need to register with the local police, depending on your nationality.
    • Familiarize yourself with the conditions of your visa, especially regarding work rights and access to public funds.

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Financial Requirements and Health Insurance for Dependants

Navigating the financial requirements and health insurance needs for dependants on a UK student visa is a critical aspect of ensuring a successful and worry-free stay in the United Kingdom.

Understanding and meeting these requirements are essential not only for the visa application process but also for the overall well-being and security of your family during your studies.

In-Depth Look at Financial Requirements

Calculating the Financial Needs

The UK visa regulations stipulate specific financial requirements that must be met to support your dependants. This includes showing enough funds for living expenses, accommodation, and potentially return travel.

For each dependant, you must prove you have a certain amount of money in addition to the funds needed for your own maintenance. The exact amount varies depending on factors like the length of your course and your location in the UK (London or elsewhere), as living costs can differ significantly.

Proof of Funds

The proof of funds can be demonstrated through various means such as bank statements, a letter from a financial sponsor or scholarship, or other official financial documents.

These documents must be recent and clearly show that you have immediate access to the funds. It’s crucial to check the latest guidelines from UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) to understand the specific amount required and acceptable proof.

Navigating Health Insurance for Dependents

Understanding the NHS and Its Limitations

While the UK is renowned for its National Health Service (NHS), which provides healthcare to residents, dependants of international students also need to navigate additional health insurance requirements. Access to NHS services is available, but it may not cover certain aspects like dental and optical treatments, private healthcare, or certain prescriptions.

Health Surcharge and Private Insurance

As part of the visa application, you will likely need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which grants access to the NHS. However, it’s wise to consider additional private health insurance.

This can offer more comprehensive coverage, quicker access to specialists, and coverage for services not included in the NHS. It’s especially important if your dependents have specific health needs or require ongoing medical treatment.

Planning for Unforeseen Circumstances

Emergency Funds

It’s advisable to have a contingency fund for unexpected expenses. Life in a new country can be unpredictable, and having a financial cushion can help manage unforeseen costs like emergency medical care, travel, or other urgent situations.

Regular Review of Financial Status

Regularly reviewing your financial status and being aware of changes in UK visa regulations or health services is important. Stay informed about any changes that could affect your or your dependants’ eligibility and access to services. This includes being aware of any changes in tuition fees, living costs, or health service provisions.

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Extending the Dependant Visa Alongside the Student Visa

The Process of Extension

If you extend your student visa, your dependents can also apply for an extension of their visas. This process mirrors the initial application, requiring updated documents and proof of continued eligibility.

Considerations for Visa Extension

Keep in mind that timing is crucial when applying for an extension. You should begin the process well before the current visa expires to avoid any legal complications or interruptions in your or your dependant’s stay in the UK.

Exploring Employment Opportunities for Spouses in the UK

Job Market Access

Once in the UK on a dependant visa, your spouse will have access to the UK job market. This presents an opportunity for them to contribute to your household income or pursue their own career aspirations. They can work in any role, provided it adheres to the visa restrictions.

Navigating the UK Job Market

Navigating the UK job market can be challenging, especially for those unfamiliar with local employment practices. It’s advisable for dependants to research job opportunities, update their CVs to meet UK standards, and possibly seek assistance from career services or employment agencies.

Educational Opportunities for Dependants in the UK

Studying in the UK

Dependents of student visa holders have the opportunity to study in the UK. While dependant children can attend UK schools, spouses might need to consider whether they require a separate student visa, especially if they plan to undertake higher education courses.

Balancing Work and Study

For those spouses who choose to both work and study, balancing these commitments is key. Time management and understanding the demands of both roles will be essential for a successful and rewarding experience in the UK.


Navigating the UK’s student and dependent visa requirements is a critical step for international students planning to study in the UK with their families. By understanding the eligibility for work, the application process, and the conditions of stay, students can ensure a smooth academic journey and a fulfilling stay for their spouses and families in the UK.


What is a dependent visa in the UK?

A dependent visa in the UK allows family members of a primary visa holder, like international students, to stay in the country during the student’s course of study.

Can my spouse work full-time in the UK while I’m on a student visa?

Yes, if you are enrolled in a postgraduate course or are a government-sponsored student on a course longer than 9 months, your spouse can work full-time in the UK.

Are there any restrictions on the type of work my spouse can do in the UK on a dependent visa?

Yes, they cannot work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach.

What documents are required for a UK-dependent visa application?

Key documents include proof of relationship, evidence of financial stability, and health certificates.

Can dependents of UK student visa holders study in the UK?

Yes, dependents can study in the UK, but they might need to apply for an additional student visa if they want to pursue higher education.

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