Since we spoke to Nigerians about the cost of leaving the country two years ago, the japa trend has gained even more popularity among young Nigerians. So, to get up-to-date insights on the financial implications of japa-ing, we asked James*, a 30-year-old product designer living in London, to walk us through the process of getting a Global Talent visa from the UK.
In this conversation with PiggyVest, he shares his reason for leaving and the requirements for getting an endorsement. He also breaks down the cost of japa-ing on a Global Talent visa.
Why did you decide to japa?
It was more a strategic move than anything else — I wanted to work with a new team outside Nigeria, so my work has a broader impact. So I decided to move, but I didn’t want to go on a work visa and Global Talent felt like a more ideal option. I didn’t japa because I got tired of Nigeria.
When did you leave?
This year. In the middle of 2023.
How long did the process take?
It took me two weeks to complete my application and another three weeks to get the endorsement.
What are the requirements for getting an endorsment for the Global Talent visa?
A little bit of a backstory: I applied for the Global Talent endorsement last year but didn’t get it. I didn’t do it myself; I asked someone to help. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the time to review the application because he had done it for five other people and succeeded. When I did review it, I realised it was a poor application.
When the results came, the feedback from the reviewer felt like a personal diss. He insinuated that I didn’t have enough followers, that I had insufficient influence. On my end, I was convinced that because I worked at a respected tech company, I would be accepted.
That must’ve stung.
Yeah, it did. The next time I applied, I took my time to read through the website. The first thing I did was find what category I fell in and the proof I needed to put together to give me the best chance.
The next day, I listed what I would need as evidence. I made an outline of my application and every point I planned to touch on. I went as far back as my work from a couple years ago so I could drive a good narrative to back my claim. This process reminded me of the volume and impact of my work so far.
Then, I started to reach out to old colleagues. They helped me gather screenshots and proof of several projects I worked on. I created a folder and compiled everything.
After that, what next?
Writing a compelling application. The person you’re submitting this application to has no idea who you are, so you must show evidence. In my application, I let my storytelling skills shine as I discussed my achievements, projects, products, roles, social media impact, public speaking engagements and mentorship roles.
One part of the document was about my role; the other was about the impact of my role. I submitted the application and got the endorsement three weeks later.
What were the requirements to get your visa?
The UK only really required a tuberculosis test, which included an X-ray.
How much did everything cost?
The TB test costs ₦60,000. Due to CBN restrictions, I couldn’t use my naira card to make many of the required payments. Fortunately, I had a Wise card because I frequented the UK before moving here, and that came in clutch.
I got the exceptional talent endorsement, which gives me three years to live and work in the UK, two years indefinite leave to remain and a British passport at the end of the five-year period. My visa cost $218 dollars. I paid for the NHS, which was £624 per year; I paid for three years (£1,872).
What about your flight tickets?
I always prefer an open ticket, so I booked one for about $1,249 using British Airways. I also paid $170 for extra luggage at the airport.
Did you pay for accommodation upfront?
I started house hunting a month before I moved. But it proved a bit hard because I hadn’t gotten my Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), which you’re given on arrival. Thankfully, a friend helped me through the process.
Landlords will either ask you to pay upfront (sometimes up to 6 months) or get a guarantor. But you must pay a compulsory security deposit, which is usually about the same amount as the rent. You’ll get your deposit afterwards if there’s no major damage to the property.
My monthly rent is £2,000, so the security deposit was around £2,000. Luckily, I was given the option of using Flatfair, an alternative to paying the security deposit. I paid the company a one-off, non-refundable membership fee of £350. But the con with Flatfair is that you will pay for any damages out of pocket. But my apartment is run by a company that handles the maintenance and repairs.
Were there any fees you had to pay when you arrived?
Just standard stuff like council tax. I also had to register to vote and register for a general practitioner, which already comes with your NHS fee.
Did you fund it all yourself?
By the grace of God, yes.
That’s impressive. Would you say that japa-ing was worth it?
I don’t know o. Bills are crazy in this UK. But like I always say: it depends on what you’re optimising for. If you just want a place to think and lead a simple life, your quality of life will improve exponentially. You don’t worry about electricity or SARS.
Since coming to the UK, I’ve done all my government registrations on my laptop and never stepped foot in a banking hall. I registered a business and all my paperwork was delivered to my door. I live in London because I have to be close to my job and the transport system is so efficient.
But you can also make good money here. I’m considered a top earner, so I might not be able to speak for everybody. But your lifestyle will determine how well you live and save. Compared to now, I was for sure balling in Nigeria.
Do you have any advice for those planning to use the Global Talent route?
Read the application instructions and all your emails in detail. Don’t make the mistake I did at first.
Also, japa-ing should be strategic — to better the quality of your life and access better opportunities. But don’t be deluded into thinking that once you leave Nigeria, you’ll become rich. The taxes and cost of living are like nothing you’ve experienced before. But it’s also nothing to be afraid of.