United Kingdom (UK) is one of the countries Nigerians visit for various reasons. Some also get to the continent to acquire knowledge, do business and also seek for greener pasture. However, while many Nigerians continue to complain about how hard it is to get UK visa, the British Deputy High Commissioner, Lagos, Ray Kyles and Regional Manager, UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) International, Africa, Mandy Ivemy at a chat with journalists explained the process of getting the UK visa and the importance of international students to the continent.
For Kyles, it is “Good to have understanding of UK visa and pre understanding of what it means. We pride ourselves as having world-class universities. Our courses are attractive to students just as universities are the destination. “ Apart from university education, there are also colleges which are more attractive to students. It proves that quality of education is attractive. The important key point is the focus on world-class education. The university education is equally very attractive to students around the world leading to increasing number of foreign students. As the Deputy High Commissioner correctly noted “We ensure that what individuals go to UK is exactly what they do when they get there so that they do not suffer any abuse.” He further noted that “We want students to do what they apply for when they get there” insisting that cost of charges and living in UK for students “ a package”.
How visa operation works
Ivemy, Regional Manager, UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) International, revealed that contrary to the notion that Nigerians hardly get visa, there is a high figure of visa issued to Nigerians stressing that the country and UK have cordial relationship.
“Uk and Nigeria have longstanding and close relationship. The vast majority of Nigerians that get to UK are law abiding Nigerians. We must ensure that anyone who wants to come to the UK is doing so for legitimate purposes and will not cause harm or seek to abuse the UK’s immigration system.
Only last year according to her the British High Commission received 168,500 visa applications from Nigerians, out of which 73 percent were issued UK visa. But figure becomes higher with regards to students’ visa. She also noted that the country ranks among top five nationalities for students Visa. “Our top five nationalities include US, China, Nigeria, India and Malaysia. I see quite often in the media how hard it is to get UK visa but with this figure it shows that high numbers get visa” she said.
How to apply
For students who wish to apply for visa this must be done online with every necessary information available on the website.
You pay for visa application fee online. Unlike other countries, the visa application fees are set by the UK parliament and are the same globally while applications are process within 15 working days. There are three visa application centres in Nigeria, one in Abuja and two in Lagos, managed by Teleperformance, which is the commercial partner. However the commercial partner is not involved in application process nor decision-making. The Visa Department makes the decisions through telephone to the applicants and this is secretely done.Indeed the decision-making process is taken very seriously. For Ivemy, “We encourage people to give us three weeks. We make decision within time frame. We process 90 percent of non-settlement applications (visits, work and study) within 15 working days and 95 percent of settlement within 60 days working days. Some applicants use visa agents to help apply for a visa but all of the information you need is also on our website free of charge. If you think you need more advice from an agent, please choose them carefully.”
International students are Important to UK economy and application seems to be increasing year on year. Indeed available statistics indicate a 4 to 5 percent increase yearly.The UK is committed to reducing net migration through controlling and reducing abuse by creating a firm but fair immigration system. The recently announced changes to the Tier 4 route aims to tackle immigration abuse among students at publicly funded colleges and those in further education, whilst ensuring the country maintains a highly competitive offer for students, who wish to study at the universities. Abuse includes people lying, victims, trafficked or smuggled. Students are meant to leave after schooling. Unlike before when they stay back and work, more people now compete for jobs. In the past the country had a system anyone could work but now the country is facing high unemployment. The best now is to leave the UK and apply for job.
Message for students
The Regional Manager, UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) International noted that students must apply as early as they could and must be ready to go. “They must apply before school opens. They must tell the truth, don’t submit fake documents. If you lie or use fake documents, and you get found out, your visa application will be refused. You also risk being banned from visiting the UK for up to 10 years”,she revealed.
Kyles said students could abuse visa when they refused to comply with category they apply for.
“Situation you do not comply with category you apply for and get a job, overstay, you are not a resident once you pass six months. If you stay over three years it’s an abuse because you are trying to be resident not visiting. Apply for visa in a category and not comply in that category, or see the visa as a way to get to UK. If you apply for six months application if you overstay is another kind of abuse”.
Partnering with countries on education
Education is one of UK government’s priorities in Nigeria. The British council runs examinations. In Malaysia government decided years ago it would make process very simple and made it centre of excellence. The benefit of this is the standard of education, which is commensurate in the UK. Nigerians could get quality education but it’s not cheap.
Immigration Rules Changes
Ivemy explained that the visa changes actually affect college students entering UK.
“The immigration rules changes are targeted at further education colleges. People between 16 and 18 years study at higher education, undergraduates are not targeted. This is because of abuse in publicly funded colleges. They come to UK to study and from September they won’t be able to work. We also want to stop people to do repeat in the same level. College students won’t be able to extend stay and switch to work unlike under graduates who get degree in the UK. This is to prevent college students from studying a new course at the same level and reduce the time limit for study at further education from three years to two years” she noted.
The UK’s Office of National Statistics estimates that in 2014, 135,000 non –EU students entered the UK but only 44,000 left – a difference of 91,000. Several thousands of those who stayed have switched into skilled work and the government welcomed the skills that they brought. However, many more overstay and do not leave when they should. The brightest and the best could compete for job after graduation. Certainly students are temporary migrants and their primary purpose for coming to the UK should be to study, not to work. Students who do not obtain graduate level employment need to leave the UK after they have completed their studies.