UK bans dependent visa for Nigerian students over housing shortages – High Commissioner

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British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery, yesterday, explained why the United Kingdom (UK) government banned international students from bringing family members with them, starting 2024.

By January 2024, Nigerians and other foreign nationals on study visa to the UK will no longer be able to bring in family members, according to the new policy rolled out by the British government to curb migration.

Montgomery said the decision is to avoid pressure on the country’s housing infrastructure and control inflow of migrants.

“Many more students are trying to bring their dependents with them. But it’s not always possible to find housing and services to meet all the needs of all our existing student population. We’ll have to manage our migration in and out of the UK,” Montgomery revealed, shortly after he emerged from a closed-door meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The new British diplomat to Nigeria, last month, submitted his letter of credence to former President Muhammadu Buhari on May 18.

Recall that the UK Home Office had announced that international students, including Nigerians, would be stopped from switching from the student visa to work visa until their studies have been completed.

The decision has, however, been greeted with mixed reactions from international students, schools, and some British lawmakers, who argued that the regulation would aggravate labour shortages in critical sectors, such as healthcare, and threaten the country’s global standing as a top destination for international talent.

Fielding questions from State House correspondents, the British High Commissioner explained: “I think, there are two issues here. The first is, it’s not always possible to find housing and services to meet all the needs of all our existing student population.

“And second, reasonable people would accept that we have to manage our visitor numbers and we’ll have to manage our migration in and out of the UK, just as the Nigerian government would do.”

Montgomery disclosed that Nigerian students to the UK increased five-fold in the last three years, even as they make up 10 per cent of those granted UK visas yearly.

“That issue was not raised in the meeting (with the Vice President) just now. But I would like to put the media debate about it in a broader context. Last year (2022), for example, the UK granted three million new visas, of which 325,000 were to Nigerians.

“Nigerian visitors constitute over 10 per cent of people coming to London and the UK. It’s a fantastic success story for our universities. And we are really delighted that so many Nigerians are coming to the UK,” he said.

Montgomery revealed that his discussions with Shettima highlighted the current policy direction of the Bola Tinubu administration, which, he said, is being warmly received by UK investors.

“As I discussed with His Excellency, the big economic decisions being taken by this government are really important and are being noticed around the world: the removal of subsidy, the exchange rate reform, all of that create a much better investment environment.”

Meanwhile, Shettima, in his remarks during Montgomery’s visit, commended longstanding assistance and support of the UK government to Nigeria, even as he expressed hope of more robust business relations.

He said: “I will urge you to facilitate the setting up of a Nigeria-UK bi-national commission. That commission can be the driver for accelerating and enhancing business relationship between our two countries.

“We need to ramp up trade, taking into cognisance our proximity. There is no nation we are closer to than the UK, and our trade represents less than five per cent of the volume of our import and export.”

Speaking on the economy, the Vice President said: “Most definitely, we are going to create an enabling environment for businesses to flourish in this country.”

He also underscored the need for reforms, to position the country’s economy for growth, especially, the removal of fuel subsidy.

“This is just the beginning because it was fait accompli to withdraw the fuel subsidy. We either get rid of the fuel subsidy or the fuel subsidy gets rid of the Nigerian nation,” he said.

In the delegation of the British High Commissioner were: Deputy Development Director, Susan Mshana; Counsellor, Lake Chad Basin, Alex Maclean; Political Counsellor, Jonathan Bacon and Senior Political Advisor, Damilola Oyedele.

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