The UK immigration procedure requires international students to have sufficient funds to pay for their courses and sustain themselves while studying. Foreign education agents of Nigeria are allegedly offering loans to students for them to avoid UK immigration rules.
Agents are now lending money to students for them to demonstrate to UK immigration authorities that they have the necessary monies in their accounts. When the student receives his or her visa, the money is returned to the agent.
CEO of Intake Education, Pieter Funnekotter, stated that he discovered the practice while on a trip to Nigeria last November to meet with team members.
“One of the things that became quite clear was that there are individuals who have seen an opportunity in Nigeria to find ways around the visa system to enrol students by lending money through a process called packaging.”
“That was, something that we’re nervous about, that students will be showing up without funds and without the means to pay their tuition fees or housing.”
Funnekotter said that he hopes to increase awareness of the practice to ensure that students have funds in place before they reach the country. “It’s not good for the students, it’s not good for the universities, it’s not good for the UK,” he added.
Intake’s regional manager for Nigeria, Bukky Awofisayo, stated that the practise was pretty common. It is now extremely open where private financial institutions of all kinds are offering students the opportunity to borrow money in order to acquire proof of cash as evidence to apply for a study permit.
According to Awofisayo, three out of every ten contacts to Intake’s Nigeria Office are from students seeking financial assistance. There are instances of various Nigerian agents promising to assist with financial requirements so that they may demonstrate they have enough money for the proof of funds portion of their visa applications. Several of these agents publicly promoted the service on social media.
It is unclear whether students who do not have adequate robust funding are able to deceive UKVI inspectors and enter the UK, although the Home Office has stated that it has “robust” mechanisms in place to combat cheating.
Visa assessments are determined on the merits of each application, and Home Office decision-makers have the option to request additional information and verify the authenticity of papers supplied if necessary.
All applications should adhere to the ‘genuine student’ criterion outlined in caseworker advice. Integrity interviews give caseworkers the authority to ask applicants why they have chosen a specific course or school, as well as how they plan on paying for their studies in the UK, according to the report. However, Intake’s Funnekotter expressed concern that the increased fraudulent actions of rogue agents in Nigeria could put pressure on legitimate agents.
The Head of Global Mobility Policy at Universities UK Worldwide, Charley Robinson, stated that training brokers play an important function in the scholar recruiting course, not only from a college standpoint but also for college students.
The UK government revealed figures in November 2021 showing a significant increase in the number of study licenses given to Nigerian students. The rate of accepted study visas for the fiscal year ending 2021 increased 347 per cent to 36,783 in 2021, up from 386 per cent in the previous two years.
According to UUKi, the increase in Nigerian students coming to the UK could be attributed to the new graduate path and is actually a rebound to the levels seen in 2012.
Furthermore, Robinson agreed that as the number of students expanded, so did the potential of fraud, and stated that institutions would have to invest the required resources to combat the problem. One Nigerian agent who chose to remain anonymous cautioned that the problem could be exacerbated by agent aggregators.
According to the agent, aggregators are not properly verifying their sub-agents and are signing up agents who subsequently conduct fraud. The vetting techniques used by aggregators have been defended.
The organization has been working on an agent high-quality framework in collaboration with UKCISA and BUILA, stated Robinson of UUKi.