How South African students can use studying abroad to immigrate

A big advantage of studying abroad is that it can be used as a route to immigration, says Brent Morris, Brent Morris, managing director of Study Abroad at Sable International. When international students reach the end of their degrees, they often find that they love living in their host country and would like to extend their stay.

But this isn’t always possible if it hasn’t been considered in the initial planning when embarking on the decision to study abroad. Morris looks at the best routes South African students should take when considering immigration.

“When making big life decisions like studying abroad and immigrating, the first thing you should do is thoroughly research your options. Before you choose a course of study, you should consider the location. Research what different countries offer, in terms of cost of living and safety – especially for people new to the country,” he said.

There are some other factors that can help you narrow down your choices.

“In terms of travel, a country with a strong passport would give you access to an extensive list of countries that you can visit visa-free. If learning a new language is a learning curve that you are not willing to overcome, then you should choose a country where you speak the language. You can also narrow your search by comparing the earning potential in different countries for the job you will be studying toward,” said Morris.

How to choose a course of study

Sable International said that when you’ve narrowed down your list of potential countries, the next thing to consider is what career path and degree will help you on your road to citizenship. “A good guide is having a look at which occupations are on the skills shortage lists of your desired countries.

“Countries like the UK and Australia have skills shortages in areas such as nursing, construction and ICT and they rely on foreign workers to fill the gaps in these industries. There are skilled worker visas in the UK and Australia available to individuals who can fulfil these roles, in addition to meeting other requirements on their points-based immigration systems.”

Sable International said that foreign governments have realised that they have access to a convenient stream of workers who have been trained by trusted institutions. It’s beneficial for them to offer these international students a way to extend their stay post-study and have them contribute to their economies through a graduate visa.

For example, in the UK, the Graduate visa is considered a “stepping stone” to immigration because you’re able to seek work on this visa and when it’s complete you may find that you’re in the position to apply for a Skilled Worker visa. This visa is a route to indefinite leave to remain (ILR) which is the precursor to British naturalisation.

“The UK is not the only country to offer post-graduate visa options. Countries like Ireland, Canada, the US, Australia and Mauritius have routes for you to extend your stay in their countries and find paths to citizenship,” said Morris.

It’s a good idea to consult a study adviser when you’re exploring the idea of studying abroad. One of the first things they will do is help you with the initial legwork in researching all your options.

A study adviser will take into consideration your plans of eventual immigration along with all the other information that you provide them about your grades, aptitude, interests and life goals and will then help you implement a plan for this, Morris said.

Other information a study adviser will give you are the costs involved when studying abroad such as university application fees, tuition and living expenses as well any costs involved with your visa application.

Use a bridging course to fill the gap

There are times when the level of education you receive from your home country isn’t the same as the country you wish to study in. This may make it difficult for you to gain direct entry into a degree programme, said Morris. But your dreams of immigration via studying abroad aren’t dead just yet.

There are pathway and foundation programmes – otherwise known as bridging courses – that are preparation courses for international students, designed to boost their level of academic knowledge, English language skills and the grades they need to enter university, he said.

The difference between a pathway programme and a foundation programme is simply that the former is offered by a third-party organisation, while a foundation programme is offered by the university you plan to attend. Most universities guarantee placement in the first year of your chosen course should you pass either of these programmes.

“One of the great things about bridging courses is that they also ease students into a new culture, country and, for some, give them an introduction to a new language.”

Assisting you with university applications

Choosing the right university is as important as choosing the right course to study, said Sable International. Often, when students think of studying abroad, they associate it with big-name universities like Yale or Cambridge.

But these schools are notoriously difficult to get into. In 2021, Yale had an overall acceptance rate of 6.9%, while Cambridge had mere 21% acceptance rate. Aside from being difficult to get into, these universities also charge exorbitant fees, it said.

“You should remember that these institutions are not the be-all and end-all of obtaining a degree from an international university.

“There are many international institutions that offer quality education that will bolster your resume and help you with your goal of immigration. The right university will be a feather in your cap when trying to secure a job in order to extend your stay in your host country, which could ultimately lead to settling there,” said Morris.

He said that a study adviser will not only assist you with finding the perfect university for you, but once you have decided on your shortlist of universities, they will assist you in submitting your applications.

“University applications can be complicated and there are so many things to keep track of. You will need to get all the relevant documents verified and make a note of all the application dates of the different universities you’ll be applying to.

“Usually, you can apply directly through the university’s website and submit all the required documents. In some countries, you may even be able to apply through a specific online platform, such as UCAS in the UK, which allows you to apply to more than one university at once.”

Get your student visa

You can only apply for your student visa once you have received your acceptance letter from the educational institution you’ll be studying at, Sable International said. Some countries, like Ireland, don’t require you to apply for a student visa beforehand so you should check the relevant government’s immigration website to see their requirements.

To apply for a student visa, generally, you would need:

  • An acceptance letter from the educational institution
  • Proof of funding for your stay
  • Proof of at least a partial payment for the course
  • A valid passport
  • English Test (IELTS test)
  • Health Insurance

Having a study adviser to guide you through this can help take the anxiety out of this process. They will manage the application process, assist you in preparing the necessary documentation as well as help you with interview preparation if an interview is required for your visa process.

Sable International said its study abroad service helps students from the moment they decide they want to study at an international institution, right up until they settle in their destination country. It applies to the universities on your behalf with the necessary documentation.


Read: How to inherit British citizenship from a UK-born ancestor

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How South African students can use studying abroad to immigrate