The search for greener pastures in foreign countries is not an easy one, many Nigerians have passed through unpleasant experinces in search of visas to travel to either the United Kingdom or America.
The desire to go abroad is quite high among Nigerians. It is looked on as a thing of pride to be able to go to other counties of the world especially the United States and the United Kingdom. Reasons for going abroad vary from holiday purposes, to educational, career or even medical purposes. Each year foreign embassies are flooded with visa applications to travel, many of which are turned down but this rejection does not deter Nigerians. Many of them go through very unpleasant experiences just to go abroad, some have even been known to travel by land through many countries just to get out of the country. There are however, a few lucky ones who get their visas easily.
According to Miss Juliet Amunta, she had applied for a six months visa to the UK and within three weeks she had gotten it. “I believed that it is those who do not have genuine reasons to go abroad that have it difficult to get a UK visa. I was given an invitation for a conference from a foreign organisation who had to send me their invitation with their company letter-head. I showed all the necessary documents, paid my visa fee and when it was ready, I was asked to come and collect it. It took me about three weeks”.
James Isaiah is a business man who travels frequently to the United States and the UK. He stated that it took him just about three weeks to get the UK visa but that for some people, it takes a longer time. “If your documents are incomplete or the officer in charge is not convinced on why you are going abroad then you will not be granted a visa. In the past, certain middle men would go and get interview dates from the embassy but end up selling their dates for a higher price. Now, it is no more like that because a lot of things have been changed in the processing,” he noted.
Others are not so lucky; Mike Ugochukwu who resides in Kano had a very bad experience. He revealed that “I was desperate to go abroad; so, I sold all I had in 2010 and had to go through hell applying for the visa and getting an appointment. At the end, I was not given a visa so I decided to go by land. We started from Benin, to Libya, then to Egypt. We finally got to Italy after much hassles. We were three who embarked on the journey and when we landed in Italy celebrating the victory of finally getting to Europe, the next day, the police raided and deported my friends and I back to Nigeria. I had to start from the scratch with nothing. It was not easy for me at all to survive even till now.
Narrating his experience at the United States’ embassy, one Mr Jerry Ukogwu told us that he had applied for the US visa three times and was denied on all the occasions. According to him, “I have appeared three times for the interview and still I have not gotten the visa. I have all my documents, the purpose of my trip is stated, I have a letter of support from foreign affairs ministry, I have a letter of introduction from my office. The school I’m going to over there has sent the evidence of payment of fees, the evidence of payment of service fee is there, I even went ahead to pay for my flight. So, there are evidences that I’m going there to return. Nobody can predict the embassy, it’s at the discretion of the consular who interviews you to determine whether you qualify for a non-immigrant visa or not.”
Speaking further on the procedures for application, Jerry said what is needed is to fill the form online based on the type of visa you want, adding that the non-immigrant is the common visa that most people often apply for. And once the form has been filled and submitted, the applicant must book for an appointment after paying the usual US visa processing fee of N26, 400.
“I don’t know why it is sometimes difficult to obtain a US visa, but I think they have their reasons. They assess people based on your purpose for the trip and most likely they want to see why you are going there and they want to be sure that you have a strong tie with your country in terms of professional job, a family you can come back to when you go there and you must have sufficient fund in your account that can keep you when you are away,” he added.
A young man who does not want his name in print said that since he has been applying for the UK Visa, he had never been denied, adding that his friend was recently denied visa on the ground that she does not have enough commitment in Nigeria.
“The last time I applied for the visa was not my first attempt and I have never been denied, maybe I’m among the lucky ones. But I have a friend that was just denied and according to her, the excuse they gave was that she does not have enough commitment in Nigeria because she is not married. I see no reason why they denied that my friend, it’s not her first time and it’s not like she did not have enough money to go and spend over there.”
Also describing the process one has to go through to obtain a UK Visa, he said, the application is electronic; it’s basically just to fill an online form. “I think the only part they can improve upon is the submission because after you fill the online form, you have to take it to a VFS centre and submit and for me, the time taken to submit is usually too long. Like my last experience took me almost three hours to submit. I see no reason why it should take that long to submit. After submission, I waited for three weeks due to the category I applied for and then get your passport back.”
However, unlike the US visa application, no formal interview is required for the UK’s except where the person is required to be present for some clarifications.
Up to the time of filing in this report, efforts to get the Head of Public Relations, Mr Rob Patrick at the British Commission and Ms Rhonda Ferguson, Information Officer at the American Embassy in Abuja to make comments proved abortive as they were unable to respond text and e-mail messages sent to them on the matter.