By Francisca Chiedu
I am deeply concerned about the ongoing issues of “modern slavery” and fraud within the healthcare sector in the UK. It’s disheartening to hear stories of people selling their belongings and taking up jobs that offer meagre salaries.
The healthcare visa has opened opportunities for rogue agents to exploit people. This problem has plagued the sector for some time, from underpaid domiciliary care workers to rogue agents distributing Certificates of Sponsorship (COS) without actual job opportunities.
Recently, an old schoolmate informed me about a mutual acquaintance stranded in the UK due to a sham care company in Yorkshire.
This company sponsored her but then left her without employment. She has been blocked on WhatsApp and is unable to access the agent. She has not gotten a job since she came to the UK in February.
The lady paid about ?9 million for the COS, and the owner of the care home said she should contact her Nigerian agent as she charged about £8,000.
Going by the exchange rate at the time she arrived in the UK, she must have paid between £10,000 and 12,000.
She sold her belongings to come to the UK. Imagine leaving a comfortable life in Nigeria to move to barely surviving in the UK.
I have heard many stories like this, and recently, Sky News did a documentary on this issue. But it won’t end until the Home Office puts measures in place to stop unscrupulous people from exploiting desperate people seeking greener pastures outside Nigeria.
The Unfortunate Reality
Many individuals, including those with stable careers in Nigeria, are leaving for the UK using the care visa route. I have seen many leave bank jobs in Nigeria to take up care jobs only to end up writing their book of lamentations about the UK.
I called one of my account officers, they left the bank for the UK on a care visa. My heart sank because they had a decent banking career as a branch manager. I could not reconcile them joining this care assistant bandwagon.
I tried to suggest other visa routes, as having to care work for five years was depressing for them, but they had already sold everything for faux greener pastures in the UK. They could not afford the IHS fees that come with other visa routes.
Imagine moving from being chauffeur-driven, having domestic staff at your disposal to taking a role where you struggle to pay bills.
I read the story of a Kenyan man whose care visa was cancelled in the Guardian. Unfortunately, he left the UK worse than he was in Kenya, with huge debts to pay. I believe media outlets must shed more light on these stories to prompt action from the Home Office.
It is time for measures to be implemented to address the fraud and inhumane practices by stripping evil care companies of their licenses to sponsor overseas workers.
Working in the healthcare sector should be a noble and impactful career, but the presence of fraudulent agents and exploitative care agencies has turned the space into slave camps.
People are trapped in modern colonisation as they can’t report their employers for fear of losing their visa status in the UK. I have not had the bandwidth to share my thoughts on #JapaSeries, but crazy things are happening.
No matter the epistle I write about this, people will still pay for useless certificates of sponsorship and most likely share a similar fate as the Kenyan man whose visa was cancelled.
For those who find themselves in this predicament, there are alternatives to consider. Firstly, you can explore job opportunities within the NHS, where conditions are typically better and job security is more stable. The likelihood of visa cancellation is low unless there is serious misconduct.
Additionally, look into other sponsorship jobs in different sectors. Check if your profession is on the shortage occupation list, and consider applying for roles in other industries while on your care visa. If you arrived as a family, explore opportunities for your spouse to apply for visa sponsorship.
I understand rejection emails can be discouraging, but it is better to try alternative paths than sentence yourself to five years of misery, hardship, exploitation, and uncertainty on a care visa.
Consider Canadian or Australian PR
While exploring other jobs offering sponsorship in the UK, also explore getting into the Canadian or Australian Permanent Residency (PR) pool. The process may take time, but it provides an alternative if your sponsorship visa gets cancelled. The process may take 1–3 years, but at least you have other alternatives.
I know some people who applied for Canadian PR in the UK and got it. If their sponsorship visa goes South, they will activate their Canada sojourn. Others applied while in Nigeria, and it got approved after they moved to the UK on a student or care visa.
Instead of paying for the 2-year graduate visa, they moved their families to Canada. Others abandoned their domiciliary care work for Canada.
In essence, I am saying this care assistant visa route is not sustainable. How do you go living in fear and exploitation for five years? I know the biggest fear of many is returning to Nigeria with nothing.
Some people sold all they had to move to the UK, so returning home to nothing is not an option. Don’t do it if you are still planning to sell your belongings to move to the UK! Only move to the UK if it is a genuine and clear immigration route. Ensure you have enough to cover living expenses for your initial period in the UK.
Global Talent Visa
Remember that the care visa is not the only UK settlement route. Before paying £10,000–20,000 for a useless care visa sponsorship, check if you or your spouse are eligible for other visa routes like the Global Talent Visa.
I have written several times about this visa. It gives you permanent residency in the UK within 3–5 years. Every day, I speak to people, and I realise that many are still unaware of this route.
Others that are aware sometimes don’t consider it because you have to pay for IHS fees, but care workers are exempted. Would you rather do a care visa and be tied to one employer with poor pay when you can get a global talent visa and easily change jobs or run your business in the UK?
If you are working in digital technology, and have tech skills, check if you are eligible for a global talent visa.
Also, if you work in the field of Art and Culture as a Fashion designer, visual artist, photographer, painter, poet, Author, Film producer, Architect, dancer, Music artist and other art discipline, I would rather you channel your energy to put your evidence together for the global talent route instead of getting into the care visa bandwagon.
I would be happy to organise a session to discuss the endorsement process for global talent if there’s enough interest.
Lastly, if living abroad becomes too challenging, remember you are always welcome home, many people are excelling and thriving in Nigeria. We all can not be in the diaspora. May God help us all navigate these challenges and find the best future path.
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