How Can You Enter the UK to Work, Study or Live – Part 1: Africa

In this six-part series of articles, we are going to explore how people from different continents can travel to the UK.

Each continent will have a specific discussion from the point of view of specific countries and from what the UK calls “visa nationals” and “non visa nationals”.

Obviously, we are going to miss out entirely nationals from EEA and Switzerland countries because if you have any of those nationalities, you will be free to move in and out of the UK as part of your free movement rights conferred by the European Treaties.

The UK has already started to prepare for the entry of Croatia into the EEA and have started to put in Croatia transitional arrangements.

Part 1 – Africa: How can a South African, Ghanaian, Nigerian or any other African enter the UK to work or study

Since March 2009 South Africans who are planning to come to the UK for anything up to six months must obtain the Visitor Visa whether the purpose is business, sport or academic related or if they are entertainers or prospective entrepreneurs.

South Africans joined  Ghanaians, Nigerians and the list of visa nationals to include most of the African countries in 2009. We discuss the ways in which non visa nationals can enter the UK later.

As a visa national African, if you intend to stay longer than six months, then you are going to have to deal with more difficulties. For this reason, our website and that of the UK Border Agency are the primary sources of information.

If you are unsure of which immigration category is suitable for you, we provide you with a free online assessment in whatever category that you wish to travel here for or you can complete our initial enquiry application or alternatively,  you can try the Border Agency website that provides a blanket questionnaire on its website entitled ‘Do you need a Visa?’ Common long-stay options would be ‘Study in the UK’, ‘Working in the UK’, ‘indefinite leave’, ‘Business People and Investors’ or ‘Joining Family’.

For example if you wish to come to the UK, you can apply for a short term visitor visa not just for tourism but to explore opportunities in the UK like joining family or for business or exploring the universities or courses for studying. Nevertheless if you want to stay longer than 6 months it will be necessary to apply for a student visa under Tier 4 of the Border Agency’s points-based system. Indeed this system regulates immigration to the UK from outside the European Economic Area. Work visas are issued according to the points-based system.

Visas to join your family in the UK are also provided on short term family visit visas or longer term settlement visas. In this case a visitor visa for a short visit can be issued to an applicant, whom a family member is a UK citizen or is settled in the UK. Be aware that short term visit visas, will generally not permit you extend or stay in the UK longer than six months.


Finally as an African, you should not forget that due to large parts of the continent having been part of the Commonwealth, you may also have a route into the UK as part of your your heritage and Ancestry. In particular, if you are a National of:

Botswana, Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania (Tanganyika, Republic of Tanganyika, United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar), Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

then you should always explore the opportunity of making an application based upon your ancestry or in some cases, you may already be entitled to British Citizenship.


The above becomes more flexible if you are from a African country that does not need a visa to enter the UK. The list of such countries in Africa is a short one.

Even with the the inclusion of Socotra and Malta as being considered as on the African plate, the list of African non visa nationals is only:

Botswana, Canary Islands, Ceuta, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Madeira, Mauritius, Mayotte, Melilla, Namibia, Plazas de Soberanía, Réunion, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Republic of Somaliland and finally, Seychelles.


If you are a national of the above list of countries, you can enter into the UK for a period of up to six months without first applying for a visa from your country. You will be granted entry clearance at the airport for up to six months.


Once you are ready to make a UK immigration Visa Application, or to go through the options available, book your immigration consultation with one of our consultants  and we shall be happy to ensure that you are on the right path and category to meet your immigration needs.

Next week: Asia

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