International Student Support

Advice for families

There are many issues that you need to consider before bringing your family (partners and children) to live with you during your studies, including accommodation, immigration and finances. If you do decide to bring your family to the UK, you should ensure you make preparations well in advance.

Immigration issues

Your family (spouse, partner or children) may be able to apply for a dependant visa to accompany/join you in the UK. In order for them to qualify you must be in one of the following situations:

  • be taking a postgraduate course (at NQF 7 or above) which lasts 12 months or more, OR
  • be a government-sponsored student taking a course which is over 6 months long, OR
  • have, or be applying for, a Doctoral Extension Scheme (DES) visa

If you do not meet any of the above requirements and are already in the UK with Tier 4 or pre-Tier 4 student leave, please contact us for further advice.

Full information on the dependant requirements can be found on the UKCISA website.  In order to bring children with you as Tier 4 dependants, both parents must be lawfully living in the UK, rather than abroad. There are only a few exceptions to this, such as if one parent has died or if you have sole responsibility for the child's upbringing. 

Please note that babies born in the UK are not automatically British citizens. They can remain here without a visa, but if you wish to leave the country with them and return, they will require a dependant visa. Please email  if you have questions on any of these issues. General information on having a baby in the UK can be found on the NHS website.

If your family does not qualify for Tier 4 dependant leave, or if your family or friends wish to visit you in the UK, they could apply as a standard visitor. A standard visitor visa is valid for a 6 month period, but you can normally only have 6 months of visitor leave in any 12 month period.  We have also produced a guide called I want to invite a family member to visit me [DOCX 117.68KB] which takes you through the steps your family need to follow.There is also a video guide which breaks down the visa application process with five easy to follow steps.

In addition, we have seen a recent spike in visit visa refusals due to lack of documentation and evidence included with the application. When assessing if your family members have the necessary funds to support themselves for their time in the UK, Entry Clearance Officers will need to see original financial evidence. There is no specific amount of time that the funds must have been in the account. However, Entry Clearance Officers may make further checks if funds have not been in your account for very long. They may also wish to establish the origin of money - if a large sum of money has recently and perhaps unusually been deposited into your account, for example, from a house/land sale or for a purchase, we advise that you address this in your application.

The immigration rules state that applicants must show that they are “genuinely seeking entry as a visitor”. As part of a visa application, we recommend that your family include details of onward or return flights.

 We also advise that you include evidence of any other ties you have in your home country, these may include:

  • family (partner, children, other dependant relatives);
  • employment (you should  include a letter from your employer stating that they consent to you visiting the UK for the relevant period and include the date you are expected back to work);
  • property or other assets (you could include property ownership deeds or other paperwork which shows proof of ownership).

The free movement immigration blog also wrote an interesting piece on what do immmigration officers look for when assessing visit visa application.

Babies born in the UK since 6th April 2015 - If you have recently had a baby or are due to, please be aware that access to secondary health services e.g. hospitals, has changed since the introduction of the immigration health surcharge on 6th April 2015. Please see this helpful UKCISA page for information on the changes in general but especially note that babies born in the UK are no longer able to access secondary NHS services for free once they are over 3 months old. This means that to ensure any babies born to Tier 4 students after this date are covered by the NHS, you will need to make a Tier 4 dependant visa application for them and receive a successful outcome, before they are 3 months old. As a postal application may take longer than this time, we see no alternative than to advise students to consider making a Tier 4 premium application, to ensure that you get a decision quickly and before the baby reaches 3 months. The only alternative would be to ensure you have private healthcare insurance for the baby. UKCISA are currently querying this policy with the UKVI and if we receive alternative advice, we will let you know. Otherwise, please ensure that you act quickly to ensure your new baby is covered by the NHS and please email us on if you want to discuss this further.

Nursery and Pre-school facilities

A new nursery and pre-school, run by the Co-Operative Childcare, opened on campus in March 2014. The nursery is located in the south-east corner of the campus near the Freeman Building. It is open to children aged three months to five years. The nursery is open every weekday from 7.30am to 6.30pm. Fees currently range between £47.10 and £53.60 per day, depending on the age of the child. This includes food, nappies and baby wipes.

Tier 4 students who have children aged 3-4 on a dependent visa can claim 15 hours free childcare per week. You can apply to start the term after your child's third birthday. For more information please visit the government website.

The nursery on campus is very popular and it is advised that you apply at an early stage, preferably before you leave your home country, as places cannot be guaranteed. You must book and confirm a place for your child in advance. For further information, please contact or see the childcare web pages.

There is a wide range of other childcare services in the local area (registered childminders, nurseries, playgroups and after-school clubs). More information can be found on the Brighton and Hove City Council website.

Family Room

The Family Room is managed by the University of Sussex Students' Union and is situated in Norwich House. The Family Room is fully furnished with toys and books for all ages of children. There is a bathroom, small kitchen and an outdoor play area.  The Family Room is free for all student parents and their families to use.  To find out more and to book the room, visit the Students' Union website.

Family Information Service

The Family Information Service (FIS) is a free, impartial service giving detailed information and advice on childcare as well as general information on a wide range of services for children, young people and their families in the city. Brighton & Hove FIS provides free information and advice on:

  • registered childcare
  • free early education
  • children’s activities
  • family support
  • childcare careers
  • local childcare jobs

See also: New to Brighton and Hove Factsheet.


Schools in the local area

Children aged 5-18 are required by law to go to school and are entitled to free schooling, with the exception of those who are here in the UK on a visitor visa. There is a wide selection of state schools in the Brighton & Hove area and more information is available online at the Brighton and Hove City Council website.

Further information about schools in the UK can be found in this helpful guide.


The cost of living in the UK is high and it can be expensive to support yourself and your family, particularly if you will require childcare (for either pre-school age children or after school/holiday care). If you intend to bring your partner and children with you, you will need to prove to the immigration authorities that you have sufficient money to house and maintain them without recourse to public funds. Please visit the Housing Services website for more details on the limited family accommodation available on campus and estimated prices. Private sector housing can be more expensive, so you need to be realistic about costs and other issues before deciding that your family should accompany you. 

English Language Classes

The Sussex Centre for Language Studies (SCLS) can assist your partner if he/she would like to develop their English language skills. Dependants can enrol on the feepaying English courses and they will receive a 10 per cent discount on the published fees (except for the pre-sessional courses). At certain times of the year, the SCLS also provides free English classes (taught by trainees), which many dependants take. Details and sign-up forms can be found at the relevant times of year on the SCLS website.

Welfare Benefits

Welfare benefits are provided by the UK Government to assist people with low incomes. However, most international students and their dependants, including those from the EU and EEA, are usually not eligible to claim welfare benefits because the benefits are either regarded as ‘public funds’ to which international students are not entitled, or there are other criteria such as residency requirements. Advice on benefits can be obtained from the Department for Work and Pensions. As the rules governing benefit entitlement are complex, it is essential to seek advice before making a claim.

International Student Support

T +44 (0)1273 67 8422