The recent visa restriction implemented by the United Kingdom (UK), which prohibits foreign students, including those from Nigeria, from bringing their families into the country, has opened up possibilities to explore other countries that are more welcoming to international students with families.
Several countries in the European region have been reevaluating their visa and immigration policies, offering flexible pathways to attract young and dynamic labor in order to stimulate and advance their economies.
“The entire European region is grappling with an aging population. This restriction will draw attention to other countries actively seeking skilled workers,” commented Toyyib Adelodun, a UK-based immigration consultant.
Adelodun further noted that while tuition fees in European countries are generally affordable, the primary challenge lies in the language barrier. However, with determination, Nigerians can overcome this obstacle.
In an official statement on Tuesday, the British government announced that the new restriction would take effect from January 2024 to allow prospective international students sufficient time for planning.
“The UK is a premier destination for the brightest students seeking education in some of the world’s best universities. However, we have observed an unprecedented surge in the number of student dependents entering the country on visas,” stated Suella Braverman, the UK’s home secretary.
Braverman emphasized the need for tightening this route to reduce migration numbers and fulfill the government’s commitment to the British people in cutting net migration.
Prior to this restriction, the British government permitted sponsored study visa holders, also known as student visa holders, to bring their partners and children (dependents) into the country.
The number of Nigerians granted sponsored study visas rose by an astounding 768.7 percent to 59,053 in 2022, marking the highest figure in four years, compared to 6,798 in 2019. The number of dependents also surged by 3,741.3 percent to 60,923 in 2022, the highest in the UK, from 1,586 in 2019.
This data indicates that the number of dependents from Nigeria exceeded the number of sponsored study visa holders. Furthermore, these dependents accounted for nearly half of the total 135,788 student dependents in the UK.
“When examining the proportional change in visa grants to dependents by nationality, Nigeria experienced a significant increase in the proportion of sponsored study-related visas granted to dependents, rising from 19 percent in 2019 to 51 percent in 2022,” stated the British government on its website.
The reasons behind the strong desire of Nigerians to immigrate are not difficult to discern, as the country faces high poverty rates, unemployment, inadequate human capital development, insecurity, and a struggling education system. Consequently, its young population is seeking greener pastures abroad, with higher education serving as a major path to permanent emigration.
A recent report by Phillips Consulting Limited revealed that 52 percent of Nigerian professionals plan to quit their jobs and relocate abroad within the next year. The report cited better job opportunities, security concerns, and access to higher education as the top three reasons for such plans.
“Most of the surveyed individuals intend to move to Canada, the UK, and the United States. These countries are relying on immigration to offset the effects of an aging workforce resulting from the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation,” the report highlighted.
Here are seven countries that welcome international students and allow them to bring their families:
This developed economy has set a goal to welcome over 460,000 new immigrants annually to strengthen its economy, reunite families, and support refugees.
Under its immigration levels plan, Canada aims to welcome 465,000 new permanent residents in 2023, followed by 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.
The country’s dependent visa enables international students to bring their dependents and permits them to work or study full-time with the appropriate permits.
“The spouses of students are eligible for an open work permit. It’s important to note that the spouse or common-law partner’s work permit is valid for the same duration as the student’s study permit,” explained Akanksha Malhotra, a study abroad adviser, in a recent article.
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Nigeria ranks fifth in Canada’s top 10 international student markets, with the number of study permits for Nigerians increasing by 17.8 percent to 16,195 in 2022—the highest on record—compared to 13,745 in 2021
Skilled Immigration Opportunities in Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, and Estonia
Germany has made significant changes to its immigration system through the Skilled Immigration Act implemented in 2020. This act aims to ease migration for skilled workers, particularly from non-European countries, to address the shortage of skilled labor in the country.
The German government is actively taking measures to enhance the flexibility of the immigration system for foreign skilled workers. They are eliminating bureaucratic procedures and introducing facilitations for third-country workers with professional qualifications.
Germany’s dependent visa, also known as a family reunion visa, allows spouses, children, and other family members to join and reside with their family members in Germany. They have the option to stay temporarily or permanently in the country.
Germany is highly regarded as one of the best countries to immigrate to due to its exceptional education system, diverse work opportunities, and thriving economy. Enjoy Travel recently rated Germany as an excellent destination for raising a family, highlighting the country’s superior school and healthcare systems, as well as the comparatively higher median salary.
Similar to Canada and Germany, Australia has been attracting more skilled migrants. Their dependent visa program enables international students to bring their spouses and families to the country.
Australia is recognized as one of the top study destinations globally. In 2022, it ranked third for Nigerians, with an increase in the number of students from 1,928 to 2,372.
Recently, the Australian government proposed an overhaul of its immigration system to expedite the entry of highly skilled workers and streamline the path to permanent residency.
Immigration plays a vital role in New Zealand’s economic development. The skilled migrant category is the most popular visa pathway for migrants and their families to obtain residence in the country.
According to the government, the resident visa under the Skilled Migrant Category grants indefinite stay, work, and study rights in New Zealand. Additionally, applicants can include their partners and dependent children aged 24 and under.
New Zealand also offers a dependent child student visa, allowing dependent children to join their parents in the country and attend primary or secondary school. The advantage is that dependent children can be treated as domestic students, exempting them from tuition fees.
The 2023 World Happiness Report consistently ranks Finland as the happiest country in the world for the sixth year in a row.
Finland is renowned for its leading higher education institutions offering excellent English-taught bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Scholarships are available for international students.
The country’s immigration rules are flexible and favorable to students and their spouses. Finland issued more residence permits in the first nine months of 2022 compared to the previous year. The average processing time for visa applications was 77 days, a significant reduction of 46 percent compared to the previous period.
Finland’s immigration service aims to issue work-related residence permits within a month by 2023 and provide more transparent information to applicants about their application processing.
To bring their families to Denmark, international students must apply for the green card dependent visa. This visa allows Danish green card holders to accompany their families while living and working in the country.
Denmark offers part-time jobs with the highest wages, reaching up to 20 euros per hour, boasting a 100 percent success rate. English is widely spoken in Denmark, making it an accessible destination for international students and their spouses and children.
Estonia, a small country, is a popular destination for various professional programs offering over 150 degrees.
With its low cost of tuition and living, Estonia provides an excellent educational experience in a beautiful setting with stunning architecture. For students interested in studying abroad with their spouses, Estonia is an attractive choice. The government provides several part-time opportunities for students and their partners.