The United Kingdom (UK) has reacted to calls for a clear Africa strategy with a new visa policy that makes it easier for African students to live and work in the country. The new UK post-study work (PSW) visa will replace the previous Tier 4 visa route and also allow masters students to work in the UK for two years while those with Ph.D. will work for three years after their study.
Per the new visa policy, African students are required to achieve a total of 70 points to be granted a visa to study at any UK university. They must also demonstrate that they can speak the English language and have the finances to support their education.
The new visa policy follows a damning report by the UK’s House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee which critiqued the lack of a coherent UK strategy to its engagement with Africa.
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While the report called on the UK government to develop a new approach to African countries based on “genuine partnership,” it found that UK visa policy, the ‘hostile environment’ and the Windrush scandal, have damaged the UK’s reputation in Africa and are making building ties in the region difficult.
The Committee said visa policies in some cases “fall below the standards of basic human decency”. It called on the Home Office to urgently review how visa policy is operating for people from Africa who wish to come to the UK.
A recent Cross-party study shows that African applicants are more than twice as likely to be refused a UK visa than applicants from any other part of the world. “The UK has good relations with most African countries, but it needs to be recognized that no single issue does more damage to the image or influence of the UK in Africa than this visa question,” the reported concluded.
In 2019, the UK hosted the first UK-Africa summit where Prime Minister Boris Johnson asserted that “Africa is the future, and the UK has a huge and active role to play in that.” He also promised to build a fairer immigration system that treats “people the same wherever they come from, by putting people before passports.”
The new visa policy has been viewed by some analysts as an attempt by the UK to lure students to its institutions over concerns of its economy. According to John Dunn, director of immigration and citizenship at Sable International, the UK’s education system educates millions of students each year and also contributes millions to the country’s economy.