uk student visa update
UK student visa updates note that it takes an average of about five weeks to process. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

International students across major study abroad destinations have been plagued by visa delays, and that includes UK-bound students. A UK student visa update by the British High Commission notes that student visa applications currently take an average of five weeks to process, but students are still being advised to apply for their visas “as early as possible”.

In a message to UK-bound students, British High Commissioner to Nigeria Catriona Laing advised students to apply for their visas “much earlier than you think you need” if they plan to begin their studies this academic year.

“In previous years, it might have been okay to apply in August for a visa to start your studies in September. This year, that’s going to be much, much too late,” she said in a video that was posted on Twitter.

Laing said the delays are due to the visa processing system facing “enormous pressure” and their priority to process visas for Ukrainian citizens.

“That means we’ve had to pause our priority and super-priority visa processing systems. So, it’s really, really imperative that you get your paperwork together as soon as possible and you apply as early as you can,” said Laing.

She also advised students to compile “other paperwork” while waiting to receive documents such as their TB test results, exam results and confirmation of CAS in order to submit all of their documents at once.

“So, please help us to help you, to make sure you get to the UK in September for your studies which is going to be fabulous. We want you to have a wonderful time studying in the UK.”

After China and India, Nigeria has the third-highest number of students granted UK student visas. Between March 2020 to March 2022, a total of 58,887 study visas were awarded.

uk student visas

Students are advised to compile other paperwork while waiting to receive documents such as TB test results, exam results and confirmation of CAS to speed up the visa application process. Source: Justin Tallis/AFP

UK student visa update: Universities urge UKVI to extend COVID-19 concessions

Indian students have also been waiting impatiently for UK student visa updates amid processing delays.

Previously, in responding to the current India-wide visa backlog, a spokesperson from the British High Commission in India gave assurances that they are working hard to shorten the processing time.

“Indian students make up one of the UK’s largest groups of international students and Indian professionals are the top nationality in the skilled work category,” the spokesperson told Live Mint in an interview.

“This is why the UK has its largest network of visa application centres globally right here in India and why we are continuing to offer the Priority and Super Priority visit visa service here – despite it being paused elsewhere,” he added. Despite the reassurance, no specific time frame has been given regarding the processing times for all other visa application backlogs.

UK universities are becoming concerned that the prolonged student visa approvals would delay incoming international students’ arrival in September.

They are urging UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to extend the COVID-19 concession, a scheme allowing international students to study online in their home country until they can come to the UK — which is expected to end imminently. UKVI is part of the Home Office.

“We are in real peril of squandering that advantage if the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) don’t allocate enough Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies to institutions and can’t scale up to cope with the demand to issue visas this summer,” pro-vice-chancellor for student recruitment and business development at London Metropolitan University Gary Davis told The PIE News. 

“We have a world-class higher education system in the UK that is very attractive to international students — please, can we make sure that we don’t undermine our popularity by failing to put enough resources in place to get the students here?” 

“We’ve started to get students enquiring about whether they can switch to online study because they’re worried they won’t be able to get their visas in time to start courses in person,” said the director of regulatory compliance at INTO University Partnerships Oli Selwood. 

Ross Porter — associate director for visa compliance and financial aid at London Business School — opined that any significant decisions cannot be implemented in time for the 2022 academic year.