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Agents in Nigeria may be helping students break immigration rules

Nigerian education agents are allegedly offering loans to students so they can bypass UK immigration requirements, The PIE News has learnt.

Proving funds in Nigeria is a contested issue. Photo: istock.

The rate of approved study visas for the year ending 2021, rose 347% to 36,783 in 2021 and 386% in the past two years

Before coming to the UK, students must first show they have enough money to pay for their courses and support themselves while they are studying.

Now agents may be lending money to students or helping broker loans so they can show UK immigration authorities they have the requisite funds in their accounts. When the student receives their visa, they may return the money to the agent.

Pieter Funnekotter, CEO of Intake Education, said that he came across the practice when he was on a trip in Nigeria meeting with team members last November.

“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 said that practice was fairly widespread.

“It’s very open now where private financial institutions of all people are offering an opportunity for students to borrow money, to be able to secure their proof of funds as evidence to apply for a study visa,” she said.

Awofisayo said that three out of every 10 calls at Intake’s Nigeria Office are from students who want help with funds.

The PIE found examples online of numerous Nigerian agents offering to provide assistance around financial requirements so they can show they have enough money for the proof of funds part of their visa applications.

Many of these agents were advertising the service on social media as prospective students navigate the financial requirements needed. It is not clear what such services entail.

 

 

Whether students who don’t have adequate robust funding are actually able to dupe UKVI officials and enter the UK is uncertain, and the Home Office told The PIE that it has “robust” measures in place to counter fraud.

“Our points-based immigration system is focused on talent and skills and makes it much easier for the brightest and best to live and study in the UK,” a Home Office spokesperson said.

“We have robust measures in place to prevent abuse of the student visa application process, including training for our decision makers on detecting forgeries and the ability to interview applicants to help question their credibility and intentions.

“Anyone who has used false documents, misrepresented their personal circumstances or practiced deception by any other means will have their application refused and may face a ban on making further applications for up to 10 years,” they added.

Visa decisions are made on each application’s own merits and Home Office decision makers have the option to request further information and assess the authenticity of documents submitted if required. All applications must meet the ‘genuine student’ requirement set out in caseworker guidance.

Credibility interviews provide caseworkers with the power to ask applicants why they have chosen a specific course or institution and how they intend to fund their studies in the UK, it added.

“The use of agents and other third parties is common place around the world and provides an important function for the education sector,” the Home Office spokesperson said.

“We are continuing to work with both institutions and study sector representatives such as Universities UK, British Universities’ International Liaison Association and the UK Council for International Student Affairs to raise awareness and increase prevention of fraudulent practices.

“We are also continuing to work with institutions to protect the integrity of the immigration system by improving recruitment practices as well as working with the study sector to remove unscrupulous agents from the market and ensure only genuine students are given the opportunity to study in the UK.”

However, Intake’s Funnekotter told The PIE that he was worried an increase that the fraudulent activities of rogue agents in Nigeria could put pressure on legitimate agents.

“Our fear is that if refusal rates go up UKVI in time will have a serious clampdown, which will have a negative impact on the sector,” said Funnekotter.

Charley Robinson, head of global mobility at Universities UK International told The PIE that education agents play an important part in the student recruitment process, not only from a university perspective, but also for students.

“The majority of education agents that universities work with are trusted and valuable partners. The sector has been working with the Home Office to share information, ensuring quality and compliance in this area,” Robinson said.

Increase in applications accepted from Nigeria

In November 2021 the UK government released data that showed a steep rise in the number of study permits granted to Nigerian students.

The rate of approved study visas for the year ending 2021, rose 347% to 36,783 in 2021 and 386% in the past two years. The rise coincided with the introduction of the UK’s new graduate route.

“Any such rapid market expansion or innovation in the recruitment landscape requires awareness from universities”

UUKi’s Robinson acknowledged that with increased numbers there was an increased risk of fraud and said that universities would have to put in necessary resources to tackle the issue.

“Following work by the UK government and sector to keep the UK competitive, this year has seen a large and welcome rise in applications to the UK from Nigeria,” she told The PIE.

“Any such rapid market expansion or innovation in the recruitment landscape requires awareness from universities, for example of how agencies and individuals may present themselves to students, how quickly new staff need to be trained and the quality of any such training and how to assure this.”

The function of aggregators

One Nigerian agent who wished to be kept anonymous said a key part of keeping fraud down was to look at the role that education agent aggregators play in the recruitment of Nigerian students.

The agent told The PIE that aggregators are not properly vetting their sub-agents and are signing up agents who then go on to commit fraud.

“You have a situation where you have students going to road-side agents who say ‘look, I can do what those other guys are doing- you just need to pay me x amount of money’. They do not offer proper assistance to the student,” the agent told The PIE.

Aggregators have consistently defended their vetting procedures for their agent partners.

UUKi’s Robinson said that her organisation has been working in partnership with UKCISA and BUILA on the development of the agent quality framework, in particular on the development of a Good Practice Guide for providers.

“This guide will provide advice on appointing, contracting and managing international recruitment agents,” she said.

“It documents the substantial best practice that there is in the sector. It includes recommendations that apply to aggregators and sub-agents. This work will be kept under review to ensure it remains relevant to the current recruitment landscape.”

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11 Responses to Agents in Nigeria may be helping students break immigration rules

  1. The above is a misleading information. No educational agents in Nigeria provides Proof of Fund, they don’t have the financial capacity to provide such to teeming number of students that travel for education. These services are infact being provided by financial institutions (possibly marketed through some of the educational agents) as part of the bank loan services and not as a Proof of Fund as it’s wrongly tagged – but as educational loan which is within ambit of financial institution services

    Even in UK and just like in every other developed countries, students take Educational loan to study in UK or in their respective countries. Why would Nigeria own be different?

    To say it’s a visa fraud is demeaning because it is Nigeria. If such loan is said to be a visa fraud, can we also rightly say that a person who took a loan from a bank to start a business committed an Economic Fraud? Or what will we say about UK indigenous students that study with loans in UK and other countries like USA etc? Which fraud are they committing? Just asking

  2. Emerging technologies (namely in #OpenBanking / #OpenFinance) adequately address “proof of funding” issues, as they empower student applicants (and their financial sponsors) to point their online banking data directly to the authority who requests it.

  3. I really appreciate your effort to assist student .
    Please i would like to know if the company gives loan in return for instalment payment?

  4. well majority of those students are paying their schools fees installment before they will commence studying , if someone took a loan from financial institution and spent it on education its a good idea, India government are giving their citizens loans to study abroad, why is other countries own see as a crime, all students should be monitor in case if they default to study, them can be sanction or cancel their stay in the country , its a development strive to both countries for financial institution to lend at loans to students to study abroad.

  5. Blessing, after reading your submission i will again say am proud to know you’re a true Nigerian. Educational loans or business loans is a global practice but because its Nigeria, Pieter Funnekotter, CEO of Intake Education who said he came to Nigeria and notice the practice should come bold to say such practice does not exist in his country. In Nigeria student loans are mostly for masters and phd study with the contract signed for repayment. Once again Blessing thank you for speaking up for Nigeria and protecting our image.

  6. This needs urgent attention as someone should step in and stop the UK government/ their home office from taking irrational steps against student visa applications from Nigeria because of this unrpleasant accusation please.
    Alternatively, Nigerian students should just wait for a year to observe and see how they would implement the so called robust plan to toughen their student visa approval rather than having to risk the proposed ? 10 year ban please. Or try other Countries please.
    A ko ni pade abatenije iJmn Amen.

  7. Blessing the peace of the lord will bever depart your life anand your household. Honestly, am bold to say that some some education policies are dream killers. Have thisthis so called intake tries to care about the plight of indindigents students who can’t study based on financial hharship? If the are rich they are rich will they ever think of
    Seeking for education loan? Let’s stop this style of killing
    Dream all in the name of nailing a country. I have a friend wwho is very poor but brilliant offered admission to over five universities in UK. Without education loan how do you think the dream of the poor man be realised? Pls, lets be rational and stop killing dream. God bless you blessing.
    U’re indeed to the poor downtrodden and given voice to the voiceless!

  8. Blessing said it all. This is so demeaning to us Nigerians. People, including those from UK collect loans to solve urgent problems when they do not have the money at the moment. Nigerians cant be left. This shouldn’t be an issue at all. Unless you are all looking for another bad name to call us.

  9. i’m a landlord in derby, i have had so many people coming from Nigeria with hardly any money (£400-1500)… I’ve just let a one young lady, and now couple stay in one of my properties for free for last few day’s as she came without booking accommodation and the couple only came with 400 pounds. my friends and local Muslim community has helped couple.. as we rightly should.

    the universities have failed to do proper checks. this couple should have not been allowed to enter on student visa as they clearly can’t afford to pay for rent, deposit, food, travel, tuition fees. without help from others like myself.. they would be on the streets. how is that right?
    the real reason alot of people are coming over from Nigeria is not for studying some micky mouse masters like blessing and co’ think. it’s for earning a better living via factory / care work.

    what’s happening a lot tenants are subletting a properties to pay for rent. thats not okay.. more wear and tear on property. remember it’s a rental business

    now, whats the solution. i personally feel only genuine tenants should be allowed to come..WHO CAN DEMONSTRATE PROOF OF FUNDS FOR 1 YEAR. simply coming over with all you life saving of a 2-3/4 thousand is not enough.

    also, why are they bringing the whole families over at the same if it’s just for studies.

    people aren’t stupid. WE ALL KNOW WHY PEOPLE ARE COMING OVER HERE. and it’s not for studying. if it was they could have gone to cheaper places. or done studies in nigeria.

    lets not blame anyone. but help educate people about the TRUE COST OF LIVING IN UK. its not cheap, rent, council tax for the none student, gas and electric bills are very expensive etc

    anyway… moral dilemma, do i report those who come here like the couple mentioned. because i’m seriously considering it. they’re a real nuisance. desperation can make people get very ugly fast.
    then no one wins.

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