Proof of Funds agencies that provide “loans” for visa applicants are recording a boom in business as more Nigerians seek student visas
With the economic noose tightening round the neck of the average Nigerian after the removal of the fuel subsidy by the Tinubu administration, many Nigerians are seeking to flee to the West using the student visa approach.
In a Felastory investigation, since the inauguration of President Bola Tinubu on May 29, with the economy nosediving, many immigration advice centres and Proof of Funds (POF) agencies are recording a boom in business.
Applying for a student visa, the British High Commission requires the prospective student to provide documentary evidence that they have enough money in their account to fund their studies in the UK. This is done by the visa applicant providing a year worth of bank statements with the entry clearance officer checking to see income and expenditure as the graduate route post-study visa introduced in July 2021 helps Bachelor’s and Master’s degree holders to be able to live and work in the country for up to two years, while Ph.D. holders can live and work for up to three years.
This is where the Proof of Funds agencies come in. These agencies are illegal and unregulated enterprises preying on desperate Nigerians wanting to flee. An overview shows they can only be contacted by WhatsApp and email and most have no office address.
A trawl through Nigerian online forums reveals there are several POF agencies masquerading as micro finance banks charging up to 6% interest on the money you require plus a processing fee of N200k. A POF applicant can get get up to N50m which is about $108k.
While many have been successful using the POF agencies, many have not been granted visas and there is no refund of either the processing fee and the interest. These agencies collect all your personal details including sensitive employment and financial data which gives them control of your bank accounts. You are only allowed to withdraw a certain amount of money and not the “loan” given to you, while you continue paying the 6% interest on the loan for a year.
When British High Commission officials scrutinise the bank-slip, bank statement or certificate of deposit they are duped into thinking the prospective student has enough funds.
Once you are issued a student visa the agency withdraw their funds plus interest.
His Majesty’s Government website states. “You must show that you have held the required money for (at least) a consecutive 28 day period which ends within the 31 day period before you paid your visa fee online.”
A travel consultant (name withheld) says most university tuition for international students is between $10,000 and $13,000 and that some schools ask for between $2,000 and $5,000 deposits to issue the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).
“Let’s say your school fee is $10,000. Out of that amount, you pay $2,000 to get your CAS. You now have a $8,000 balance, add your living expenses for nine months, put the naira equivalent into your account for circa 30 days.” The travel consultant added.
Akowe with reports from Lagos