With the globalisation of the business world, the need for employees to work in foreign jurisdictions is becoming increasingly prevalent. Over the next few months, we will discuss immigration considerations when assigning employees to key African jurisdictions.

In this edition, the focus will be on Nigeria.

Which visa/permit is required?

As with all jurisdictions, the type of business visa/permit required depends on the reason for the visit and the length of stay.

Short-term assignments in Nigeria 

Individuals travelling to Nigeria on short-term assignments will require either a Temporary Work Permit or a Business Visitor's Visa. The details of each are set out below:  

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Long-term assignments in Nigeria It bears mentioning that the provisions in the Immigration Act, 2015 pertaining to foreign nationals requiring visas, work permit and residence permits do not apply to nationals of member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who are exempted from requiring entry visas, and are allowed to work, reside and undertake commercial and industrial activities within Nigeria. This exemption applies provided that such citizens register with the Nigerian Immigration Service as ECOWAS nationals.

Long-term assignments are linked to specific job designations, meaning that the visa is connected to both the entity and the position in which the foreign national employee will be assigned. 

There is a specific process which the employer is required to follow before the employee can apply for their work visa:

  • Firstly, the employer must apply for an expatriate quota. An expatriate quota is the official permit issued by the Federal Ministry of Interior  which allows the employer to employ a certain number of foreign nationals for a specific job, for a set amount of time; and
  • Secondly, once the employer has obtained an expatriate quota, it has to apply for a Subject to Regularisation visa. The Subject to Regularisation visa is a visa applied for by the employer on behalf of the employee, entitling the employee to, subject to further regularisation,  take up paid employment as an expatriate. The application must be made to the Nigerian embassy or consular office in the country in which the employee resides.Only once the employer is granted an expatriate quota and the employee is affored the Subject to Regularisation visa, can the employee apply for a combined expatriate residence permit and aliens card (CERPAC). A CERPAC allows the expatriate employee to reside and work in Nigeria for a maximum period of 12 months. As of February 2015, the requirement of needing a re-entry visa when returning to Nigeria on a CERPAC has been abolished.  Employees are now able to travel in and out of Nigeria without having to apply for re-entry visas.

Note: Special provisions apply to ECOWAS nationals. Such nationals are entitled to an ECOWAS card, which:

  • exempts the employer from having to apply for the expatriate quota and the Subject to Regularisation visa; and
  • entitles the ECOWAS national to certain residency and business rights (in Nigeria, as well as other ECOWAS member states), including allowing the ECOWAS nation to work and reside in Nigeria for up to five years.

Dependants

When the employer applies for Subject to Regularisation visa for an employee, it does so on behalf of the employee as well as his accompanying dependant(s), if applicable. In such application, the employer undertakes to assume immigration and other responsibilities for the employee (as well as his dependant(s)) in Nigeria.  

Dependants, including spouses and major children, entering Nigeria as dependants of the employee are barred from working. Dependants are also not entitled to any specific social benefits in terms of Nigerian immigration law or any other law. However, it is often the case that provision is made for these dependants under the contract of employment entered into by the employee, parent or guardian and his employer.

Conversion, Termination and Bars to Admission

There is no procedure that allows for immediate conversion of short-term visas into longer-term visas or residency.

On termination of the CERPAC holder's employment, his or her employer is required to notify the Nigerian Immigration Service of the immigrant’s disengagement, and also further apply for the immigrant to be deleted off the employer’s expatriate quota grant list.

The main bars to admission for work are as follows:

  • where the employee has a criminal record;
  • the expatriate quota is no longer valid; and
  • where same-sex couples want to reside in Nigeria.

Practical considerations

In addition to obtaining immigration approval for the employee's assignment, employers should ensure that the requisite employment and secondment agreements are in place. Where there will be an employment agreement in existence in both the home country and in the foreign country, the employer should be careful to avoid conflict between the two agreements.  Thought should also be given to the action plan should either one of the employment agreements be terminated, for whatever reason.

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