I have been following the Japa trend, and I think I should lend my voice to the conversation.

First I would like to wish those in the UK “Japa boat” well as they start their courses. I also hope many have given a thought to #Japa the student Visa route gives you limited time to live in the UK — a one-year Master’s programme and two-year graduate visa do not count toward settlement in the UK. So stay humble and focused on achieving whatever your goal is for leaving our beloved Nigeria at this time. I have a thing or two to share with those who are willing to learn.

In August, organisations in Nigeria witnessed mass resignation because most employees are relocating to the UK for their Master’s. In 2020, the UK returned the two-year post-study work (PSW), which they renamed the graduate visa. In 2010, former PM Theresa May, who was home secretary at the time, put an end to PSW visas. When I arrived in the UK in 2011, the PSW visa was no longer in place but we met the last batch of people who had two years to look for a sponsored Tier 2 visa. So, I know the pressure and anxiety that comes with the two-year PSW visa as it passes quickly. I will take my time to share what may likely happen to thousands of “Japarians” excitedly leaving Nigeria for the UK. I already see trends…

As far as I am concerned, immigration has become a product for universities, the Home Office, school agents, banks, and all other parts of the student visa value chain. International students are cash cows, the product is designed such that you can meet the initial requirement, come in, and pay small-small. So most people coming here are simply coming to work and pay school fees with the hope that they will secure a permanent job that will give them a Tier 2 sponsorship visa. After five years of working on a Tier 2 visa, you are eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, popularly called ILR. So, in short, for most “Japarians”, the goal is ILR. The ILR is permanent residence status.

With over 90% visa success rate, the UK is now home to thousands of immigrants with a similar goal of switching from the two-year graduate visa to a Tier 2 that leads to ILR after five years. By the way, a year after getting your ILR, you can apply for British citizenship. It sounds easy, but it does not come easy. In 2012, those who got the two-year PSW visa had to do mass return to Nigeria. Others who went before them also did their mass return in batches. Some cried. They felt depressed to return to the same Nigeria they have called names. It will happen again. That’s why I am sounding this note of warning to all those who think they have arrived. Stay humble and focused, and resist the urge to ridicule everything Naija!

Most people returned to Nigeria two years after their PSW visa expired. It will happen again, but the number may not be as high as we experienced 10 years ago because, since BREXIT, the UK now has other visa routes to attract and retain “top talents” in some areas. So depending on your skills and experience and how you set your priorities, you may not be among those hustling for a Tier 2 Visa. I will come back to these routes when I have some time to share, or I just continue my “unsolicited” and “busybody” advice to people within my reach.

Some 10 years ago, some people who came for their Masters were very strategic; some had Plan A, B, C, D, and a combination of Plan A+B, B+C, etc. I will share the trend. Some people started applying for graduate roles in companies like the Big 4 and multinationals that offer sponsorship. The application process is long, so by the time they are done with their master they have a job waiting. Those with previous experience in Nigeria create time to apply for experienced roles with sponsorship. Few got a role while on PSW and switched to Tier 2. Others wrote IELTS and applied for the Canadian PR while they were in the UK and left for Canada when they didn’t get Tier 2 sponsorship.

Another group became perpetual students; after two years, they apply for a second Master’s to buy time and then do a PhD so they can apply for ILR on the 10-year route. In the past, you could easily do a second Master’s, but the Home Office has put restrictions on that, and you need to justify why you are doing another Master’s. Most UK universities won’t even offer you a second Master’s. Some will do a PhD after the two-year graduate visa just to buy time. It is not cheap, and you will simply spend 10 years of your life working to pay fees. I think it is easier for married people to do the “long” study route. So the wife starts a Master’s, the husband becomes dependent, works to pay school fees, and they both get on the two-year graduate visa. At the end of the graduate visa, the husband starts a Master’s, and the wife becomes dependent, then one ends up with a PhD to complete the ten-year visa route. In some cases, husband and wife will take turns doing PhD so they can qualify for ILR in 10 years. Some are lucky to get a PhD sponsorship to ease the burden is another strategy to remain in the UK.

Another group of people are single men and women trying to remain with spousal visas. Some strategically date people with British citizenship. Please avoid getting into marriage just to get the right to remain in the UK. Many times it doesn’t end well. The UK has put in a system to make the spousal visa difficult. First, you need to prove your relationship is genuine and subsisting. Those who go on a spousal visa get two years and a half. If the marriage fails during that period, the visa can be cancelled or not extended.

Before BREXIT, some just married Europeans to get the right to live in the UK, thankfully BREXIT ended many disgraceful sham marriages. There are many visa routes, and the healthcare visa is now a consolation for many people who come in as students and immediately switch to the healthcare visa after a few months in the UK. Another group will spend the next two years looking for a care home to sponsor them.

There is another group of people who will keep the option of going back to Nigeria or other countries in EMEA. I tell you the truth; this is a good plan. Don’t worry about getting a Tier 2 visa or going to Canada. Make your plans and explore routes that offer growth prospects. By the way, Tier 2 visa does not guarantee that your employer won’t have a change of plan. If your employer terminates your contract, you may be left hanging. If you can look for routes that are not dependent on employer sponsorship, that’s a better plan.

For those still planning to Japa, I think many people are misguided about the courses on offer. When I have some time, I will share my thoughts on misinformation about some courses and unfulfilled promises made by some universities just to attract students. It is insane! I am sorry, but many of you will be disappointed, especially those doing Business courses. Some schools charge over £20,000 for internships and end up not offering them. This is misleading. You see all those courses they call “international this and that, and those with long bogus titles? Most marketing departments of universities just coin fancy course titles just to attract students, but today is not the day to “break that table”. In the meantime, enjoy the bubble of your “new dispensation.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Kaaynan’s editorial stance.


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