40,875 Nigerian Students and Health Workers Secure UK Visas in a Single Year
In a recent revelation, official data confirmed that 40,875 Nigerian students and health professionals were granted visas by the UK within a span of one year.
Breakdown of the Numbers
- Health and care workers: The statistics witnessed a drastic surge with the visa approvals for health and care professionals from Nigeria. Their numbers skyrocketed by 263.7% from 6,125 to 22,278 in the year concluding in June 2023.
- Student visas: Notably, there was a 72.8% increment in the issuance of student visas to Nigerians, reaching a five-year high.
It’s worth noting that amongst African countries, Nigeria reported the second-highest percentage increase, following closely behind Zimbabwe’s 372%.
Reasons Behind the Surge
Several analysts believe that the UK’s relaxed migration stipulations, primarily driven by the acute shortage of healthcare professionals amid the COVID-19 crisis, are a significant reason behind the swell in numbers.
The UK government had previously committed to augmenting nurse figures by 50,000 within five years, even initiating a health and care visa policy in 2020, ensuring an expedited, cost-effective migration process for healthcare professionals.
On the Nigerian side, factors such as heightened unemployment, low human capital development, security concerns, and sub-par education systems are pushing many to seek opportunities abroad.
The Education Sector’s Attraction
British government data also highlighted a steep rise in the number of Nigerian students receiving sponsored study visas. In the words of Kemi Ogunkoya, a Lagos-based leadership development strategist:
“The UK is not attracting Africans merely out of affection, but rather for their skill set. With Nigeria’s vast educated population, it’s a win-win for both nations.”
Interestingly, Matthew Page, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, accentuated that British independent educational institutions, especially the private boarding schools, are increasingly seeing Nigeria as a lucrative market.
The UK’s International Education Strategy
The UK’s robust international education strategy, updated in 2019, aims to:
- Amplify the worth of its educational exports to £35 billion ($48 billion)
- Accommodate a minimum of 600,000 international scholars annually by 2030.
The strategy also promotes innovative immigration avenues and job prospects for foreign students, such as the Graduate route, high potential individual visas, and global talent visas.
While Nigeria and India reported considerable growth in visa dependents, the UK’s recent restrictive visa policies might influence these figures in the coming years.
Suella Braverman, UK’s home secretary, expressed concerns about the surge in student dependents and emphasized the UK’s appeal as a global academic hub.
Reports suggest a potential future exodus of skilled professionals from Nigeria. Ikemesit Effiong from SBM Intelligence emphasized the significance of continuous engagement with the Nigerian diaspora to retain ties and potentially attract back the migrating talent.