I read the following in Yesterday’s paper with much Zest.
By EMMANUEL ONYECHE
Published: Sunday, 24 Aug 2008
EARLY last year, the former British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Sir Richard Gozney, made a statement that corroborated what many Nigerians already knew. He said, ”The UK Visa operation in Nigeria is one of UK‘s biggest and busiest in the world.”
Gozney added that within a space of 10 months (March to December 2006), ”The BHC has processed over 300,000 UK visa applications in Nigeria.” Out of this number, he did not state the percentage of those whose applications were successful or unsuccessful.
He did, however, provide a statement from which we can make a fair deduction. Gozney said only 8,000 out of the 28,000 Nigerians that applied for the British study visa in 2006 were successful.
What Gozney did not also say was that among the slightly over 75 per cent unsuccessful applicants and even those who were successful, were those who had applied for the visa for more than three times, as well as those who had made deposits of at least one year fee into registered and unregistered UK universities.
Patrick Odozi, a lawyer and an immigration consultant, says that in his class in the UK, where he studied, they were 18 Nigerians and none of them came on first application. Back in Nigeria, he says he frequently battles to help students seek the refund of their trapped one-year tuition fees after they have been denied visa by the BHC. Sometimes, these tuition fees are as much as £4,000, which is over N1m.
Indeed, the desperation of many of these students to escape from the harshness of their own country, is eating deep into their pockets, while their intended guests are raking in money handsomely for their government. The student visa application fee is N25,750, which means that of the 20,000 students that were denied visa in 2006, the nation lost N515m (about $4.1m). This is the minimum because there are cases of students, who had applied more than four times before they got the visa.
Odozi says that about 50 per cent of Nigerians, who apply for UK visas, have no business travelling to the UK in the first place.
Yet, each time they fail, the UK visa operation in the country tells them that they are at liberty to make fresh applications, and, of course, pay fresh visa fees.
These non-refundable visa fees are not peanuts. The fee for direct airside transit visit is N11,450 (about £50), while six months visit is N16,400. Longer visits of two years and above is N52,000 (more than £200), while the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme Visa, as well as the work permit visa are also N52,000. The fee for settlement visa is N130,000.
Gozney, who gave a summary of why many visa applications were not granted, said that the rejected 2006 student visa applications included those of candidates, who failed to fill their forms correctly and those who failed to give convincing evidences that they had been duly offered admissions or would be able to finance their education without recourse to public funds in the UK.
As simple as Gozney‘s reasons for the rejection of visa applications appear, Odozi believes that the UK visa application form is strewn with landmines and regrets that many people make the mistake of filling it in a hurry – some right there at the embassy – without seeking the help of an expert.
Odozi says, ”This form is a standard form that asks some questions that sometimes require just a ‘yes‘ or a ‘ no‘ answer and does not go into details to tell you that further information are needed to be disclosed. But then, the embassy will state, when they turn the person down, that they did not disclose those information.
”For example, a simple question that asks for your marital status will require that you must present your marriage certificate if you say you are married or a court order showing that you are divorced if that is what you indicated in the form and also the presentation of a detailed explanation regarding who holds custody of your children if you say you have kids.”
Another mistake many people make, Odozi says, is that they make the wrong application. ”Sometimes, some people do not know what they want to apply for and the moment you apply for the wrong thing, you may not know all the information you need to provide. If you are going to study, do not asterisk visiting on the form,” he says.
He gives the example of a heavily pregnant woman, who applied for visiting visa with the hope that her baby, if delivered in the UK, will be a British citizen. Odozi says this is not automatic, adding that if the woman had applied for medicals, it would have brightened her chances of getting the visa.
Again, he advises people not to fill the form with little residual knowledge. ”You need to be able to access all the laws that govern each type of application,” he adds. ”Take the right of abode as an example, you need to be conversant with the British Immigration Act and the Nationalities Act and not just rush and fill the form.”
Some people who apply for visiting visa also make the mistake of filling the form in such a way that the amount of money they earn does not correlate with how much they intend to spend in Britain. ”Someone who earns N80,000 in a month and says he wants to go on six weeks leave in Britain, where he intends to spend £2,000, has missed the point. Eighty thousand a month multiplied by 12 months is N960,000. The question is why anyone should want to blow over 50 per cent of his annual income in six weeks. Such a person is a potential candidate to be turned down. All these deductions are made from your answer to two simple questions that asks you how much you earn and how much you are travelling with. That is why I say most information are hidden and are intended to weed out people,” he says.
Some people also make the mistake of going to the Internet to apply to all sorts of schools and if such schools are not approved by the British Education Board for award of degrees such applicants are also potential candidates to be turned down. To avoid them, Odozi says an expert opinion counts. ”This kind of mistake is very costly because not only are the candidates denied the visa but they are on their own in recovering their trapped tuition,” Odozi says.
The greatest losers are those who do not have the intention of travelling to the UK in the right way. In this category, Odozi says, are those who fill the form without being educated about the harsh realities of life in the UK.
”We counsel such people not only to get the visa, but also on what they are likely to face if they find themselves in the UK. The tendency for such people to start suffering from the airport is 99 per cent because nobody is ready to help them. Everybody is hostile and in a hurry to catch the next train. The people are so cold and so individualistic that if you run out of money nobody is ready to lend you some.
”In any case, you must have a work permit before you can get the type of employment that will bring you under the British labour law. Some people think that going to Britain to attend school is to go and work. It is not so. The moment you land in Britain without the requisite documents, you end up working in what they call ‘Cababs,‘ that is to say you do menial jobs and those that will employ you are the Asians. The minimum wage in Britain is £5.35 per hour, but these Asians can pay you half of that and you work for 18 hours, maybe as a replenishment assistant and your job is to use your shoulder to offload goods from vehicles.
”Eighty per cent of Nigerians who are illegal immigrants in Britain are night watchmen. In three pubs that I frequent in the UK, the guys that stay in the toilets to give out toiletries like hand towels are Nigerians and they are graduates. Some read economics.
”If you go with a visitor’s visa of six months and stay put, first of all, if you ever commit a crime, you will be deported and you can also be banned from entering Britain for many years.”
What I thought about was the financial implications for the British Government, how much they are raking in on a monthly and yearly basis from the already-dry pockets of our brothers and sisters, who want to go abroad. At the end of the day, their visas would be denied.
Are there any Britons lining up in front of the Nigerian High Commission in the U.K, awaiting their visa approvals? How many foreign students want to come and study in Nigeria anyway? How about the daily arrival in droves of half-baked expatriates?