Nigerians’ bid to migrate abroad don’t match visas granted

The number of Nigerians applying to migrate to the UK, US and Canada is on the rise but not as many are granted visas, immigration data analysed by BusinessDay has shown.

The common impression, especially on social media, suggests a mass exodus of sorts from Nigeria, but this is not backed by data from these three countries, which are among the top destinations Nigerians favour.

There are two main visa categories, non-immigrant/temporary visas and migrant/permanent resident visas. Leaving Nigeria legally, for ‘greener pastures’, to reside and work requires migrant/permanent visas and these differences are critical.

For instance, as of September 2021, Canada has issued 22,867 temporary resident visas to Nigerians and 9,215 permanent resident visas. While both numbers represent an increase over 2020, they are still below what was recorded in 2019, especially temporary resident visas — comparison with 2019 is because it is considered the ‘last normal’ year before the pandemic. It shows fewer Nigerians were granted visas to migrate or visit Canada.

Most US immigrant visa categories granted so far in 2021 were to relatives of US citizens who applied to join either a spouse or other family member. . While the visa approval rates largely remained either flat or declined, more work-related visas have been granted to Nigerians by the UK, as well as in 2020 when all visa applications dipped.

Read Also: UK, US preferred by Nigerians seeking dual citizenships – Iduh


When compared over the years from 2018 to 2021 (September), there is no sign of an ‘astronomical increase’ in the number of Nigerians granted Canadian visas based on an analysis of data provided to BusinessDay by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Department of the Government of Canada responsible immigration into Canada, refugees, and Canadian citizenship.

In 2018, Nigerians submitted 15,801 applications for Canadian permanent resident visas but only 10,225 (64.7 percent) were granted.

In the same year, Nigerians also submitted 88,957 applications for temporary resident visas, out of which 40,701 visas were issued, representing 45.7 percent.

By 2019, applications from Nigerians for permanent resident visas increased to 18,774 of which 12,699 (67.6 percent) were granted visas. Applications for temporary resident visas went up to 115,400 of which 42,511 (36.8 percent) were issued.

In 2020, there were fewer applications for permanent resident visas due to the COVID-19 pandemic; as 16,971 Nigerians applied and less than half, 7,207 (42.4 percent) got visas. There were 69,348 applications for temporary residents and 28,071 (40.4 percent) were issued visas.

Comparing the first nine months of previous years, from 2018 to 2021, a trend emerges. In 2018, 31,865 temporary resident visas were issued to Nigerians, while 8,077 got permanent resident visas.

The number increased in 2019 (within the same period ) to 32,431 for temporary resident visas, and 10,290 permanent resident visas.

By 2020, the number of temporary resident visas granted halved to 20,700 when COVID struck. The number of permanent resident visas plunged by 65 percent, only 3,628 visas were granted. In 2021 the number of visas were more than 2020, but lower than 2019 and part of 2018.

United States of America

Immigration data provided by the US Department of State shows how many visas are issued within any period but not the number of applications submitted.

From 2011 to 2020, 74,068 immigrant visas have been issued to Nigerians– 2013 recorded the highest with 9,782. However, the number of immigrant visas has been declining since 2018 when 7,922 Nigerians were issued the visas, dropping to 6,746 in 2019, and dipped further to 3,677 in 2020. Immigrant visa holders are often those allowed to work under certain conditions as permitted by the specific visa type they hold.

For non-immigrant visas (business, tourism etc), however, 1.17 million visas have been issued to Nigerians. There was, however, an overstay rate of 11.16 percent in 2019 according to a report by the US Department of Homeland Security.

So far in 2021, the US has issued 4,626 immigrant visas to Nigerians, while 22,841 non-immigrant visas have been issued.

Even though a notice on the State department website cautions against comparing monthly reports from some years due to a change in methodology, the immigrant visas already granted in 2021, exceed what was given for the whole of 2020 (which could be attributed to COVID).

Identifying the top five immigrant visas issued to Nigerians, a breakdown of the 4,626 immigrant visas already issued in 2021, shows that 1,002, the highest, were for children of US citizens. Visas for spouses of US citizens come next with 910 issued then 588 conditional visas for spouses of US citizens followed by 420 visas for both undefined reasons and parents of US citizens who are at least 21 years old. The fifth highest is 413 visas which is also undefined.

While the data for 2021 was manually collated on a monthly basis to get 2021 figures so far, a notice on the US website stated that the reports contain preliminary data, which are subject to change.

United Kingdom

In 2018, there were 129,765 UK visa applications from Nigeria, and out of these, 82,489 were issued, while 47,219 were rejected. There is also data for ‘lapsed and withdrawn’ applications out of total submissions.

Out of these 82,489 visas only 3,726 were work-related visas and 551 work-related applications were refused.

In 2019, the applications increased to 155,403 and 108,116 were issued, while 45,941 were refused. Out of the visas granted, 5,162 were for work-related visas and 552 refused.

By 2020, the applications declined to 81,333 and 56,528 visas granted while 25,391 were refused — 5,514 of these were for work-related visas and 177 refused.

So far in 2021, from January to September, there were 109,025 applications from Nigeria for UK visas. Out of these, 74,131 were issued, while 28,858 were refused. Of the visas granted so far, only 7,877 were for work-related visas and 288 were refused.

Work-related visas to the UK also had applications covering some dependents.

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