The Immigration Act 2015 grants the Immigration authorities the power to routinely enter companies to review and verify their compliance and consistency with the provisions of the Immigration Laws and Regulations. These visits are meant to be unannounced, purposely designed to catch the company off-guards. It is expected that companies consciously prepare for routine visits ensuring that immigration compliance is at the core of their company values.
How to prepare for routine Immigration audits
It is often said that it takes less time to do things the right way than explaining why it was done the wrong way. Companies with expatriates need to take immigration compliance seriously.
In preparing for the unexpected audits, companies are advised to:
- Keep a file for each expatriate containing copies of their bio-data page, green cards, temporary receipts, visa extension receipts, endorsement pages and other incidental information.
- Have a ready-list of expatriates on Visa on Arrival (VOA), Temporary Work Permit (TWP), Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC).
- Track expiry dates of quotas, work permits and visas and renew Expatriate Quotas and residence permits as and when due.
- Ensure that expatriates are on the right visas dependent on their purpose of entry. Expatriates on VOAs are not permitted by law to work. They should also not appear to be working or be seen within the work-area of the company.
- Delete/deregister expatriates that are no longer working for the company so as to be released from immigration responsibility in relation to the expatriate.
- File monthly quota returns in the states the expatriates are working.
- Ensure there are Nigerian understudies for each expatriate position.
- Notify the Immigration authorities if there is a change in company address.
- Conduct periodic Immigration training to ensure that the immigration practices of the company are constantly in line with the provisions of the Immigration Act and Regulations.
Handling Immigration Officials on-site
On-site immigration audits will be “a walk in the park” for companies that have prioritized immigration compliance. It is important that each company with expatriates trains an employee; the HR personnel in most cases on how to handle on-site immigration audits. Such an employee or the HR personnel as the case may be should:
- Welcome the Immigration official(s) courteously.
- Ask to see their identity cards and letter of introduction for verification purposes.
- Call the company’s Immigration Advisor.
- Ask for the list of documents required and provide them for sightseeing.
- Inform them you will compile any other documents required but not in your possession and provide them on an agreed later date.
Immigration Audit Documents Checklist
- Certificate of Incorporation.
- Business Permit Of Company (Forms C02 & C07 in case Of wholly Nigerian owned companies)
- Establishment Quota.
- Additional Quota Approvals (where applicable)
- Quota Renewals.
- Memorandum and Articles of Association.
- CERPAC forms/Green cards.
- Letter Of Offer of Employment/Acceptance Of Offer Of Employment
- List of Nigerian Employees.
- List of Nigerian Understudies.
- Three (3) Months Quota Returns.
- Permanent Until Reviewed (PUR) Certificate/Receipt Of Payment (where applicable)
- Letter of No Objection (where applicable)
- Evidence Of Departure (where applicable)
- Evidence Of Deletion of Quota Position(s) (where applicable)
Possible outcomes of an Immigration Audit
Non-preparedness for an on-site immigration audit can be really messy as it raises suspicion of non-compliance which leads to further digging. Consequences of non-preparedness can range from retention of expatriates’ passport to arrest of expatriates to instant deportation of expatriates. It can also result in a halt in company’s business activities, suppressed morale of expatriate employees and a reputational damage. The Immigration Act 2015 likewise grants the Immigration authority the power to impose heavy fines and penalties on the company which could result in dire economic loss. Undoubtedly, compliance is inexpensive compared to non-compliance.
Routine immigration audits might not be avoidable, but non-compliance to Immigration regulations is. It is important that all companies with expatriates prioritize compliance and appoint immigration advisors that are positioned to properly guide them on the requirements of the Immigration laws and regulations, conduct internal immigration audits and assist with resolving issues trailing on-site immigration audits.