Guidelines to Nigerian Immigration Laws and Procedure





Immigration law in Nigeria is primarily governed by the Immigration Act Cap 171, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the regulations promulgated by the Minister for Internal Affairs. The powers of the Minister of Internal Affairs are delegated to the Comptroller General of Immigration who is charge of Nigeria Immigration Service under Section 5 of the Immigration Act.

GUIDELINES TO NIGERIAN IMMIGRATION LAWS AND PROCEDURE
Immigration law in Nigeria is governed by the Immigration Act Cap 171, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the regulations promulgated by the Minister for Internal Affairs. The powers of the Minister of Internal Affairs are delegated to the Comptroller General of Immigration who is charge of immigration under Section 5 of the Immigration Act. There are different types of visa/entry permits into Nigeria. Other regulatory immigration agencies are the Nigerian Customs Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). It will be necessary to firstly consider the primary Immigration laws and thereafter Immigration procedure.

A. Immigration laws.
1. Visa/Entry permits.
There are different types of visa such as visitorís visa, transit visa, tourist visa, business visa, diplomatic visas, gratis visas, etc. Application is to be made to the Nigerian Embassy in the country where the applicant resides. If the applicant resides in a commonwealth country, it is called an entry permit.

2. Employment Visa.
Under Section 8 of the Immigration Act, any foreigner seeking employment or work permit must obtain the consent of the Comptroller General of Immigration while those seeking long term employment must obtain resident permit from Nigerian immigration authorities. Short term employments (three months or less) will apply to Nigerian missions in their country for temporary work permits while long terms employments must obtain Subject To Regularization visas (STR) and resident permits. STR visa are for three months duration. Application is to be made to the Nigerian mission is the applicantís country of residence. Spouse or dependent of the applicant are also eligible to apply for STR. Upon obtaining the STR visa, the applicant will be allowed to take up the employment in Nigeria and will have to regularize and obtaining residence permit within three months of entry into Nigeria.

3. Return or Re-entry Visa.
These types of visa are issued to persons holding residence permits to enable them return to Nigeria after the expiration of their residence permits.

4. Expatriate Quota.
Companies seeking to employ expatriates in Nigeria have to seek for expatriate quota permit from the Ministry of Internal Affairs or Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission. It is for two years duration. It is renewable after every two years.

5. Residence Permit.
Under Section 10(2) of the Immigration Act, persons who are not citizens of Nigeria may apply for residence permits to live in Nigeria. It is to be issued by the Comptroller General of Nigerian Immigration and endorsed on any travel document as a combined expatriate and residence permit card (CERPAC).

6. Business Permit.
Any foreigner seeking to do business in Nigeria or take over any business or practice any profession must obtain from the Minister of Internal Affairs or Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission.

7. Registration of Aliens.
Under Section 7 of the Immigration Act (Control of Aliens) Regulations, all persons being over 16 years not from a commonwealth country who intends to stay in Nigeria for over 56 days must be registered with the Aliens Office within 21 days of arrival in Nigeria. Such alien officer must supply the Comptroller General of Immigration with the particulars of such registration. Exempted are persons under 16 years, diplomatic immune persons, visiting heads of states, seaman except those who comes ashore for over 28 days, persons holding visitors visas.

8. Foreign company registration requirements.
The legal requirements for incorporation are contained in the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990. They include name of the company, registered office address, type of company, share capital, objects of the company must be legal, qualified directors, subscribers who may become directors.

Section 54 of Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 allow foreign companies incorporated outside Nigeria to take all necessary steps to incorporate a separate entity in Nigeria for the same purpose except companies granted exemptions. Failure to comply with these requirements attracts penalties. Exemptions can be granted by the Council of Minister to companies invited specifically by the Nigerian government to execute any specific project or executing any project on behalf of a donor country or international organization, foreign government owed companies engaged solely for export promotion activities, engineering consultants or technical experts for Government projects or contracts approved by the Government or any of its agencies. Under Section 54 (2) of CAMA, application for exemption shall be in writing addressed to the Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria. Foreign companies exempted are to have the status of unregistered companies under the Companies and Allied Matters Act. Besides exempted foreign companies, the operational requirements of all other companies are governed by the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 and several other laws such as the Nigerian Investment Promotion Act, the Companies Income Tax Act, Investments and Securities Act 1999, Foreign Exchange Act of 1995 etc.

B. Nigerian Immigration practice and Procedure.
1. Registration of foreign company.
Once it is not an individual seeking a work or residence permit, then the foreign company seeking to do business in Nigeria must be registered in Nigeria under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 except it is exempted under Nigerian law. The requirements are stated in the above paragraph.

2. Business permit.
After registration of the company, it must apply for a business permit to the Ministry of Internal Affairs or via the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission for a business permit. Application is by formal application letter, application form with foreign company registration particulars.

3. Expatriate Quota Permit.
The foreign company is to obtain a foreign quota permit by application to the same Ministry of Internal Affairs or via the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission. The rationale is to restrict foreigners taking up employments that Nigerians are qualified to do. Mode of application is application to the Ministry of Internal Affairs with company registration particulars, a tabulation of official staff positions in the foreign company to be held by foreigners and Nigerians if applicable, a list of the foreigners to hold specific positions.

4. STR Visa.
Once the foreign company decides on the number of employees coming to Nigeria to work, then an application for an STR visa will be made to the Nigerian embassy in their country of residence. Mode of application is by an official letter, official application form, employment letter of the applicant (s), employment details and addresses etc. An STR visa will then be issued permitting the foreign employee to work and reside stay in Nigeria for three months duration pending regularization of work and residence permit upon entry into Nigeria.

5. Regularization of STR.
Upon entry into Nigeria, the foreign employee(s) is to immediately apply to the Nigerian Immigration Services for a Combined Expatriate work and residence permit called CERPAC. The standard fee is $350 for each application plus an additional processing fee. Mode of application is by an application for CERPAC and multiple visa. The STR visa is to be attached to the CERPAC application.

6. Multiple entry visa.
An application for regularization of STR visa is also made with an application for multiple Nigerian visas to enable the foreign employee enter and leave Nigerian at will. The cost of about $150 officially and an additional fee for processing.

7. Alien Registration Card.
An application for alien registration is to be made to the Nigeria Immigration Services for alien registration. The duration of the card is for a year ands is renewable every year. The official processing fee is $250.

C. Relevant Nigerian Immigration Authorities.
Several relevant Nigerian immigration and business registration authorities grant business permits, expatriate quotas, residence permits, work permits, alien registrations, company and business registration licences etc. They include the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs, Federal Ministry of External Affairs, Nigerian Immigration Services, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, Corporate Affairs Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service etc. However, there are no distinct Immigration courts for appeals as Immigration matters and Customs and Excise matters are all heard at the Federal High Court.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barrister Onjefu Adoga
Barrister Onjefu Adoga is a Nigerian lawyer. He is the managing Partner of Brooke Chambers Law Firm and a member of several International Law Committees.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.



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