Miracle Akubuo 


Official data released on Thursday reveals that a total of 40,875 Nigerian students and professionals in the health and care sector were granted visas by the United Kingdom in a span of one year.

Within this timeframe, the number of health and care professionals from Nigeria receiving work visas surged by over threefold, while those securing student visas witnessed a substantial 72.8 percent increase.

Specifically, data from the British government indicates that the count of Nigerians under the health and care category for skilled work visas surged by an impressive 263.7 percent, soaring from 6,125 in the year ending 2022 to 22,278 in the year concluding June 2023.

Notably, Nigeria’s health and care work visa holders experienced a substantial growth of 374 percent in dependants, rising from 7,452 to 35,330.

The upswing in healthcare worker migration to the UK can be attributed to the country’s lenient migration requirements, coupled with the COVID-19 induced shortage of healthcare personnel.

The UK has grappled with healthcare staff shortages, making it a net importer of healthcare professionals; in response, the government introduced measures to make migration more convenient and cost-effective for healthcare workers.

Amidst these trends, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has witnessed a significant departure of skilled individuals seeking better opportunities abroad, consequently impacting the country’s healthcare sector.

According to Kemi Ogunkoya, a Lagos-based leadership development strategist, the UK’s attraction to African talent stems from its pursuit of skilled individuals for future preparedness, hinting at the economic benefits involved.

Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting, adds that European countries, particularly the UK, seek Nigerian workers to address unemployment gaps caused by the Great Resignation phenomenon.

Matthew Page, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, underscores the growing allure of Nigerian students to British independent schools, particularly the private boarding institutions.

Operating under the principle of visa sponsorship, the UK’s immigration system is centered around the educational institution where the student intends to study.

To fulfill its international education goals, the UK introduced strategies like the Graduate route, aiming to provide work opportunities for foreign students after completing their studies.

In 2021 and 2022, the UK exceeded its target of hosting 600,000 international students per year. Nonetheless, a recent visa policy change could affect the number of sponsored study visa holders and their dependents in the coming years.

A report from Phillips Consulting Limited indicates that a significant portion of highly skilled Nigerian employees plan to relocate abroad, impacting sectors like finance, insurance, professional services, and IT.

Efforts to engage the Nigerian diaspora are crucial to attract skilled talent and maintain connections beyond remittances.

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