25 Sep Immigration Regulations 2017
In its bid to make carrying on business in Nigeria easier, and to attract more foreign investment, the Nigerian Immigration Service recently released a regulation called the Immigration Regulation 2017 (“the Regulations”). The Regulations also aim to curb the abuse of immigration permits by foreigners in Nigeria as well bring their attention to the Immigration Act 2015 (“the Act”) and other relevant laws.
Although with some of the provisions being similar to those in the Act, the Regulations come with a few updated rules for ensured implementation. Some of the key provisions include:
- Residence Permit
The maximum term for the issue of residence permit to foreign nationals is now two years and no longer one year. However, the validity period is controlled by the validity period of the expatriate quota.
A valid residence permit can be used for re-entry into the country, while foreign nationals awaiting regularization are allowed re- entry within 90 days from the date of endorsements in their passports (not the date on their CERPAC receipt).
- Spousal Resident Permit
The Regulations introduced a spousal resident permit for foreign nationals married to Nigerians and it only applies to marriage between male and female individuals. The permit is issued notwithstanding the entry visa and serves as a multiple entry visa.
- Permanent Residence Permit/Investment Visa
A foreign national who has imported an annual minimum “threshold of capital” over a period of time, may be issued a permanent residence permit, provided he does not withdraw the investment and has complied with all other requirements necessary for the grant of the permit
This is also known as an Investment Visa which is not new to countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, etc.
Although, the regulation does not provide the said “threshold”, the Immigration Act provides that the threshold will be determined from time to time in the National Visa Policy or any other Policy.
- Temporary Work Permit (TWP)
This can now be obtained without the pre-requisite of an expatriate quota, but it is subject to the consent of the Comptroller General. It will be in the form of a cablegram and will be transmitted to the appropriate embassy.
- Business Permit
The Regulation emphasizes the need for foreign nationals to obtain Business Visas prior to their establishing a business, trade or profession in Nigeria. Thus, local Nigerian entities with foreign interests or investments must be issued Business Visas and it will be in the companies’ name.
The visa is also now subject to renewal unlike before which allows for some sort of check and balance with foreign participation. It is important to note here that the same accord applies to an expatriate quota or where both permits are required.
- Visa On Arrival (VOA)
By virtue of the Regulations, Visa on arrival (VOA) is now available to “any person” (i.e. all foreign nationals), including business visitors 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, unlike before when it was restricted to certain high net individuals. It is issued for a month and can be extended to 90 days.
N.B: the foreigner must have obtained a pre-approval in his country of residence before boarding the aircraft.
- Registration of Foreign Nationals
In order to monitor the movement of foreign nationals in the country, foreign nationals will be required to register with the Nigeria Immigration Service in the state where they reside and obtain a Certificate of Registration which they must carry with them at all times.
They are also required to inform the Nigeria Immigration Service of any changes in their place of residence in the state or out of the state (even if it is temporary). This duty has also been extended to Hotel and Property Managers and owners who must keep a detailed record of foreigners on their property.
- ECOWAS Nationals
ECOWAS nationals are now required to register with the National Immigration Service before taking up employment in Nigeria, although it does not affect their right of entry for 90 days being citizens of the ECOWAS member countries.
- Stay of Action
Where a company’s expatriate quota has expired and undergoing renewal, the company may apply for a Stay of Action, which will allow the foreign employee to remain in Nigeria, pending the renewal of the expatriate quota.
- Offences and punishment:
The Regulations also set out the major offences being committed by both foreigners and Nigerians and the prescribed punishment for same:
The refusal to apply for the regularization of stay in Nigeria within three (3) months, failure to renew business permit, transit visa, visitor’s visa or temporary work permit after expiration, non-renewal of residence permit 30 days after its expiration will attract three (3) years imprisonment or a fine of N500,000 or both.
An agent acting on behalf of a foreign national, if guilty of an offence under the Regulations where no specific penalty is provided will be liable upon conviction to a term of ten (10) years imprisonment or a fine of N2,000,000 or both.
c. Corporate bodies/Companies
A corporate body in violation of any provision of the Regulations or Act will be liable to a fine of N5, 000,000 and the court may wind up its operations.
Other corporate offences and penalties include the smuggling of migrants, refusal to renew expatriate quota, refusal to employ Nigerians to understudy expatriate employees, etc.
Berkeley Legal is capable of giving further advice on any of the above as well as assisting with the procedural aspect of same.