The United Kingdom has witnessed a notable increase in the issuance of visas to Nigerians in the first half of 2023. According to Jonny Baxter, the British Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, approximately 132,000 visas were granted to Nigerians during this period, compared to 324,000 for the entire year of 2022. This surge in visa issuance signifies a 10% share of all permits granted by the UK in that duration.
Several factors have contributed to this significant uptick in visas to Nigerians:
- Strong Economic Ties: The UK and Nigeria share robust economic relations, fostering increased travel between the two nations.
- Educational Opportunities: Nigeria has seen a growing number of its citizens pursuing education in the UK. The UK’s decision to allow students to bring their dependents has further encouraged Nigerian students to study in the UK.
- Student Visa Changes: The UK government recently altered its rules on student visas to accommodate students bringing their dependents, which is expected to lead to a further influx of Nigerian students.
- Fee Increase: The UK government has raised visa application fees to cover processing and service costs for visa holders.
Baxter attributes this significant uptick in visas to Nigerians to several key factors. He states, “In the first half of the year, we granted approximately 132,000 visas, and those are all sorts of visas, which include visit, work and study visas. In the previous full year before that, we issued about 324,000.”
He further explains that Nigeria’s proportion of visa recipients relative to its population size is noteworthy, indicating a strong demand for travel to the UK. He notes, “If you think about Nigeria’s population, relative to the world, that’s actually a higher proportion of Nigerians taking up those visas and coming to the UK, which I view is a good thing.”
Baxter underscores the growing importance of educational ties between the two nations, stating, “The UK has a huge number of Nigerian students in the country, and in terms of foreign students in the UK, Nigeria is second only to India.”
Moreover, he emphasizes that changes in UK visa policies, particularly allowing students to bring dependents, have contributed to this increase in visa issuance. He explains, “In 2019, Nigerian students going to the UK brought in 1,500 dependents. By 2022/2023, that number had risen to 52,000 dependents; that’s a massive increase.”
To address the increased costs associated with processing visas and providing services to visa holders, the UK government has raised visa application fees. Baxter clarifies, “What the British government has decided to do is they review fees all the time, and they’ve decided that because of the cost of processing visas, those costs that people applying for visas need to pay should go up as well.”
In conclusion, Mr. Baxter advises the public to apply for visas well ahead of their scheduled travel dates due to the intricacies of the visa-granting process. He underscores the importance of understanding the reasons behind fee increments, stating, “But I completely understand it is important for us to explain it so people understand reasons for increment.”
This surge in visa issuance is indicative of the strengthening relationship between the UK and Nigeria, reflecting growing economic and educational ties. Notably, Nigeria ranks second only to India in terms of foreign students studying in the UK, underlining the significance of educational exchanges between the two countries.