In March 2017, the Federal Government of Nigeria issued the Immigration Regulations 2017 (“the Regulation”). The objectives of the regulations are to (i) provide a legal framework for the implementation of the 2015 Immigration Act, and (ii) consolidate existing immigration regulations. The regulations repealed the 1963 Immigration regulations which had been operational for 54 years.
The Regulation was designed to address global trending issues in migration and terrorism. It also seeks to create a more conducive environment for doing business in Nigeria, in line with the recent Presidential Executive Order for Promotion of Transparency and Ease of Doing Business. It is important that both current and prospective foreign investors in Nigeria appreciate the provisions of the regulations, in order to ensure compliance and ease of doing business.
The Regulation requires the issuance of a business permit for any foreigner to establish profession, business or trade. The holder of such permit must however procure the necessary visa or residence permit for entry or residential purposes. The issuance or revocation of the business permit is at the discretion of the Minister of Interior (“the Minister”) and any conditions he may impose.
Visa on Arrival
The Regulation empowers the Comptroller-General of Immigrations (“CGI”) to issue a visa on arrival to any person. Prior to this regulation, the visa-on-arrival scheme was only available to a category of persons, including government delegation and persons of international repute. The regulations have however extended the scheme to all persons, although for business purpose and not tourism. Persons applying for a visa on arrival must have obtained a pre-approval in their country before departure.
Temporary Work Permit
The CGI may authorise the issuance of temporary work permit to foreign workers of a firm, which will not be factored in its expatriate quota. It is a single entry work permit that allows workers on a specific project for a period not more than 3 months, to come into the country without affecting the expatriate quota already issued in favour of the company. This allows a foreign business domiciled in Nigeria, to bring in its special project teams with ease. The period of the work permit may be extended for a 30 day period.
Permanent Residence 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 that the investment is not withdrawn and the foreign national has complied with any other condition prescribed for the issuance of the permit. A National Visa Policy will determine the minimum threshold from time to time.
The Regulation established a registry in all states, to maintain a register of particulars of all immigrants. An immigrant (except those excluded) resident in Nigeria must within twenty-one days report to the registry to supply all his particulars. He must also inform the registry if his status changes or he moves his residence from a place to another place within a state, or from a state to another state. The purpose of the registry is to have an accurate database of the number and location of immigrants at per time.
Non-compliance with the Regulation is an offence. Offenders may be punished with imprisonment or fine depending on the offence. Corporate bodies are also liable to fine.
The Regulation represents the desire of the Federal Government to encourage foreign investors. It is expected that foreign nationals will take advantage of the benefits provided by the Regulation. It is also expected that the government will be strict on enforcement, and government agencies may conduct audits and investigations into the compliance status of foreign nationals and companies. Our Regulatory & Compliance practice group ensures that our foreign clients and investors are properly advised on current immigration policies, and are able to walk them through the compliance process.