As in any other country, Non- Nigerians that desire to enter, work and reside in Nigeria have to comply with the Immigration requirements of the country. The Immigration Act 2015 and the Immigration Regulations 2017 provide the framework for Non-Nigerians who want to enter the country for all purposes and intents. This article outlines the steps and requirements for obtaining work and residence permits in Nigeria.
Except for tourists, most expatriates that immigrate to Nigeria do so mainly for work purposes. The process of obtaining visa, work or residence permits, therefore, usually commences with their employers. The first thing any company desirous of employing expatriates employees will do is to apply for the grant of an Expatriate Quota. In the same vein, foreigners who intend to establish a business, profession or a trade in Nigeria are required to obtain a business permit.
This is a permit issued by the Ministry of the Interior that allows a company registered in Nigeria to employ expatriates. Typically, the Expatriate Quota is granted for a period ranging between two to three years at the discretion of the Minister of the Interior and is subject to renewal upon expiration. The quota is issued to the company and not the expatriate. As such, when the expatriate leaves the company, the position reverts to the sponsor company and the company may place another expatriate in the same position for as long as the quota position remains valid.
After the positions on the EQ are granted by the Federal Ministry of Interior, the expatriate employee has to apply for a Subject to Regularization Visa from the Nigerian Embassy or diplomatic mission in his/her country of residence.
Subject To Regularization Visa (STR)
This category of Visa applies to expatriates taking up long-term employment in Nigeria or who intend to stay in the country for purposes that are not short term. The dependents of expatriates applying for STR can also apply for the visa. The STR visa is valid for 90 days during which an application must be made to the Comptroller-General of Immigration, to regularize the stay of the prospective employee, and the person may assume his employment only when such application is approved and a Residence Work Permit granted.
- Formal application for STR Visa from the Employer/Institution accepting Immigration Responsibility.
- Valid passport with a minimum of 6 months validity.
- Letter of employment.
- Expatriate quota approval.
- Letters of Offer of Appointment and Acceptance of Offer.
- Educational qualifications and Curriculum Vitae.
- Duly completed form IMM 22.
- Extract of the minutes of the Board’s resolution for C.E.O. positions.
THIRD STEP (IN-COUNTRY)
Upon gaining entry with the STR Visa, it is necessary for the expatriate employees to obtain an Expatriate Residence Permit, which would enable them to regularise residence within the country by making an application to the Comptroller General of Immigration “CGI” requesting for the regularisation. The application would also be accompanied with:
a. Employees International Passport with Subject to Regularization “STR” Visa.
b. A duly filled CERPAC statutory form.
c. STR package containing STR documentation received from Nigerian Embassy/Consul.
Once this application is approved, the Nigeria Immigration Service “NIS” issues to the expatriate a green coloured non-transferrable card, generally referred to as ‘CERPAC’. CERPAC is a long-term work authorization. It is valid for one year and subject to renewal. An expatriate that is only required to be in Nigeria briefly won’t require a CERPAC but a short-term work authorization like the Temporary Work Permit and the Business Visa depending on the purpose of his/her entry.
Temporary Work Permit (TWP)
The Temporary Work Permit Visa (TWP) is a single entry visa suitable for expatriates or foreign business persons who intend to carry out short-term work in Nigeria. This usually applies to expats invited by corporate bodies to carry out specialized skilled services such as Installation, Maintenance and repair of equipment, Training/capacity building for Nigerian staff. A Temporary Work Permit Visa is usually granted for 2 months. It can be extended in–country for an additional 6 months in phases. Application for TWP can be made through a corporate representative in Nigeria. The corporate Body in Nigeria only has to file formal request to the CGI on the expatriate’s behalf stating the following: i. Name of Applicant indicating Nationality ii. Passport number iii. Nature of Job to be performed by Expert that is specialized and of temporary nature (outside quota)
This category of Visa is available to foreign travellers who wish to visit Nigeria for the purpose of meetings, conferences, seminars, training, trade fairs or for other brief business activities.
The Business Visa is normally obtained from Nigerian Missions overseas. However, it can be obtained through the Visa on Arrival (VoA) route in cases of urgent business travels and time constraints or the absence of a Nigerian Mission in the applicant’s country. Holders of the Business Visa cannot take up employment in Nigeria as the Visa only covers short-term engagements within the country. The Business Visa is valid for 90 days.
ECOWAS nationals and citizens of countries with which Nigeria has visa abolition agreements are exempted from obtaining this. It is noteworthy that ECOWAS nationals do not require Visas to enter Nigeria. All they need to do is obtain an ECOWAS Residence Card (ERC).
ECOWAS Residence Card (ERC)
ECOWAS Nationals are required to register with the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in their place of residence after they must have become resident in Nigeria. This registration is satisfied by obtaining the ECOWAS Residence Card (ERC).
- Application letter for the ERC made by the Individual/Employer/ Embassy/
- High Commission/ Diaspora Union accepting Immigration Responsibilities.
- ECOWAS Travel Certificate or National Passport valid for not less than 6
- Photocopy of Bio-data page of ECOWAS Travel Certificate or National Passport.
- Two copies of applicant’s recent passport photograph.
- Evidence of e-payment i.e. printed payment confirmation page.
- Duly completed and signed application form.
An ECOWAS National employed in Nigeria would also need the following, in addition to the above:
- Letter of offer of employment
- Letter of acceptance of an offer of employment
- Applicant’s credentials /CV where applicable.
- Evidence of registration with professional bodies (if applicable)
The recently released Immigrations Regulations 2017 with the objective to consolidate existing immigration regulations has introduced some other ways foreigners can obtain residence in Nigeria. It also contains provisions improving the existing procedure and timelines for obtaining Visas and entry permits into Nigeria. Some of the implications of the Immigration Regulations 2017 as it affects foreign nationals are listed below.
- Foreign nationals who have imported an annual minimum threshold of capital over a period of time may now be issued a Permanent Residence Permit, as long as the investment is not withdrawn.
- Foreign nationals who are married to Nigerians can obtain residence permits.These permits will serve as multiple re-entry permits, notwithstanding the class of visa such a foreigner holds.
- The Regulations states that Visas on Arrival can now be issued to any person, after approval of the Comptroller General.
- In practice, while an application for the renewal of an Expatriate Quota (EQ) is pending, the EQ could expire making the relevant expatriates liable to deportation. As a solution to this, the Regulations grants the Minister of Interior the powers to issue a stay of action for such deportations so far there is a pending application for the EQ(s).
- Business permits by the provisions of the Regulations are now subject to renewal. There is no clarification yet on the initial term or consequent terms after renewal.
Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa with a population of over 190 million. The country’s continuously expanding consumer market has made her an investment and employment destination for a lot of expatriates for some time. One of the major concerns these expatriates and their employers face, however, is ensuring that they obtain the right visas and permits tailored to the purpose and intents of their entry and the duration of their stay.
It is noteworthy that some of the applications for Visas and permits can be initiated online through the NIS portal but most companies prefer making use of corporate representatives in Nigeria as such representatives will be in a good position to make recommendations on the right permits/visas to apply for and offer advice on the steps the companies can take to stay compliant with the Immigration Rules and Regulations of the country. It is largely important that companies stay on the right side of the law by being compliant with the Immigration Rules and Regulations of the country to avoid their expatriates from being denied entry or deported from the country.