Federal government of Nigeria has approved the immediate deportation of 36 Indians and 2 democratic republic of Korea nationals.
A statement by the ministry of foreign affairs noted that the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau signed the deportation order on September 11, 2018, retreating that the deportation move is pursuant to Section 45 (2, 3 and 4) of the Nigeria Immigration Act 2015. The statement shows that the Indian nationals gained entry into the country with fake visas and counterfeit Immigration stamps, while the Korean nationals failed to r
egularize their stay upon the expiration of their contract with Zamfara State Government.
It advises all foreign nationals to operate within its provisions as the nation will not compromise its immigration laws. The minister reiterated President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to empower the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to enhance enforcement of the nation’s Immigration Laws, stating further that all foreign nationals should operate within its provisions as the nation will not compromise on its immigration laws.
Nigeria Immigration Laws; What you need to know.
Are you a foreign national hoping to gain entry into Nigeria either to work, for residence, business, investment etc. it will be good to be familiar with the Nigeria immigration laws for a smoother hinge-free stay.
Nigeria immigration laws is governed by the Immigration Act, of Nigeria. On March 20, 2017, the Honourable Minister of Interior Lt. Gen Abdulrahman Dambazau (retired), issued the Immigration Regulations 2017 (the “Regulations”). This was poised to create a legal framework for the implementation of the Immigration Act 2015 (“Act”). It provides the legal and regulatory framework for the entry and departure of persons into or out of Nigeria. The Act provides that persons entering into Nigeria, or leaving Nigeria, are required to be examined by an Immigration Officer, who may, on the information provided, refuse admission to any non-Nigerian citizen in any proper case. The Minister of Interior is authorised to prescribe the conditions for entry into Nigeria and the fees payable in respect of such authorised entry, that is, Visa, Permit or any such travel document.
According to Madubuike (2017), Any person in Nigeria, who wishes to employ an immigrant shall, first, apply to the Director of Immigration for permission for the immigrant to come to Nigeria to resume such employment. It is an offence for any expatriate employee to change his employment in Nigeria without notice to, and approval of the Director of Immigration. It is also an offence for an employer to terminate the employment of an expatriate employee liable to repatriation without first giving notice of such termination to the Nigerian Immigration Service. Penalties for breach of any of the provisions of the Immigration Act include fines, terms of imprisonment and deportation. Citizens of all ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries have the right of travelling freely to Nigeria without any visa or special permission.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE IMMIGRATION REGULATIONS
- Business permit
The Regulations codify the need for a foreign national to obtain a business permit, prior to establishing a profession, business or trade in Nigeria. Thus, a business permit is issued to local Nigerian registered entities that have foreign interest or investment and the permit is issued in the name of the local Nigerian registered entity.
It is pertinent to note that the business permit in itself does not grant the holder resident status. The holder must, in addition to obtaining a business permit for the requisite business, also apply for and procure the requisite visa or permit to reside in Nigeria.
The Regulations also provide a penalty for failure to renew business permit failing which same may be revoked. It is germane to note that the practice, post issuance of the Regulation, didn’t require the renewal of a business permit.
- Residence Permit
The Regulations make rules regarding the grant of residence permits. Specifically, the Regulations stipulate that the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service (CGI), is responsible for the issuance of residence permits to immigrants that intend to reside in Nigeria.
The Regulations also provide that residence permits may be granted for a period not exceeding two (2) years. This therefore confirms that an expatriate can obtain a residence permit valid for more than one (1) year. It is, however, paramount to note that the validity of the residence permit is subject to the validity of the expatriate quota.
Valid residence permit are also used for the purposes of re-entry into Nigeria, while foreign nationals awaiting regularization are allowed re-entry within ninety (90) days from the date of endorsement in their passports. It is important to keep in mind that the date endorsed in the passport is the effective date for re-entry purposes and not the date on the Combined Expatriate Resident Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC) temporary receipt.
- Investment Visa
The Regulations seek to introduce an investment visa. In this regard, the Regulations provide that a foreign national that imports a minimum ‘threshold of capital’ over a period of time may be issued with a permanent residence permit (PR). The Regulations do not, however, provide the minimum threshold of capital required. The Act provides that the threshold capital would be determined from time to time in the national visa policy or any other policy. Furthermore, the Regulations also provide that the investment PR may be revoked if the foreign national withdraws the investment from Nigeria.
- ECOWAS nationals
The Regulations make provisions in connection with the residence permits for nationals of Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS). The Regulations states that the nationals of ECOWAS must register with the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) before they take up employment. Worthy of note is that ECOWAS nationals have a right of entry valid for ninety (90) days.
- Temporary work permit
The Regulations provide for the implementation of the issuance of the Temporary Work Permit (TWP) outside the expatriate quota provision. The Temporary Work Permit (TWP) is a single entry work visa authorization valid for two (2) to three (3) months subject to the discretion of the CGI. It is important to note that the TWP may be extended for another thirty (30) days
Additionally, the Regulations stipulates a penalty after conviction of a three (3) year imprisonment term or a fine of Five Hundred Thousand Naira (circa US$1,500.00) for failure to renew the TWP, whilst enjoying the benefits only persons with valid TWP should enjoy.
- Visa on Arrival
The Regulations provide that the CGI may approve the issuance of a visa on arrival (VoA) in respect of any person. It must be noted that the Act had specifically provided for foreign nationals that can be issued with the VoA who are generally, frequent travel business persons of international repute, executive directors of multinational companies and members of government delegations.
However, the Federal Government of Nigeria recently announced that the VoA has been extended to business travellers who may not be able to obtain a consular business visa because Nigeria does not have a consulate in their home country, or due to the exigencies of urgent business travel. Based on the foregoing, the VoA is now available to all foreign nationals. It must be noted that the foreign national must have obtained a pre-approval in-country before boarding the aircraft.
- Expatriate Quota
The Regulations mandate the prior authorization of the Minister in writing, before a foreign national establishes a business, trade or profession, in Nigeria. The authorization would be given in the form of the business permit or expatriate quota or both. In addition, the Regulations also provides for the stay of action letter which acts as a bar to deportation during the pendency of an application for renewal of the expatriate quota. This means that if the expatriate quota expires during the renewal process, the company may apply for a stay of action letter which would allow the foreign nationals in the company remain in Nigeria till the quota is renewed and work permits extended.
- Spousal Resident Permits.
The Regulations introduce a spousal residence permit for foreign nationals married to Nigeria nationals. The permit is issued irrespective of the entry visa and serves as a multiple entry visa. It is important to note that the Regulations is silent on the sex of the spouse (this means that the spousal permit is available to both a husband and a wife that is a foreign national).
However, Nigeria does not recognize civil partnerships and same sex marriages; consequently, the spousal resident permit would not apply to this class of marriages.
- Control of Movement
The Regulations introduces a register to monitor the movement of foreign nationals. The register is to be maintained in the state where the foreign national resides. The essence of the register is to identify, register and monitor the movement of foreign nationals.
Upon completion of the registration, the foreign national will be issued a certificate of registration. In addition, foreign nationals who intend to change their residence status or have changes in their circumstances, must notify the NIS office in the state where they are registered, within seven (7) days. Regarding changes in circumstances, the requirement to notify the NIS office is only where the changes are such that they affect the information provided during registration.
Apart from the foregoing, the Regulations state that a foreign national must have a copy of the certificate of registration in his possession at all times in the event that an immigration officer demands for same. Also, the Regulations also place a responsibility on house holders that lease or rent their property to foreign nationals to ensure that the foreign nationals comply with the provisions of same. Householders need to confirm the resident status of foreign nationals before the lease or similar transactions of arrangements come into effect.
Although, the Regulations do not provide a specific penalty for failure on the part of the house holder to report a foreign national that fails to comply, the Act has a wide reaching penalty section which would cover this infraction. The Regulations also mandate owners or managers of hotels, boarding houses or any premises where lodging or sleeping accommodation is provided for pay, to keep a register of foreign nationals. The register is required to contain the following information:
- full name of the foreign national
- last address of the foreign national
- occupation or profession of the foreign national
- nationality and passport number of the foreign national
- date of arrival and departure of the foreign national
- destination of the foreign national
- signature of the foreign national
It is critical for such establishments referred to above, to keep a record of foreign nationals going forward, because the Regulations also authorize immigration officers to, at all times, carry out an examination and may also by notice in writing request information contained in the register.
- Offences and penalties
The Regulations provide that foreign nationals who fail to regularize their stay within the prescribed three (3) months, renew their business permit, visitor’s visa, transit visa, TWP (Temporary Work Permit) after expiration, or renew their resident permit within thirty (30) days from expiration, shall be liable on conviction to a term of three (3) years imprisonment or fine of Five Hundred Thousand Naira (circa US$1,500.00) or both.
Additionally, the Regulations further recognize infractions committed by the relevant corporate entities. Specifically, the Regulations provide that a body corporate that fails to renew the expatriate quota or render its expatriate monthly returns commits an offence and is liable to a fine of Three Million Naira (circa US$9,000.00).
Note therefore, that the Regulations do not state whether the penalty is per infraction, for example, if the body corporate fails to file expatriate monthly returns for a few months and renew the expatriate quota, would the penalty be per infraction.