General framework

Legislation

What primary and secondary legislation governs immigration in your jurisdiction?

The main legislation governing immigration in Nigeria constitutes the Nigerian Immigration Act 2015, the Nigerian Immigration Regulation 2017 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.

International agreements

Has your jurisdiction concluded any international agreements affecting immigration (eg, free trade agreements or free movement accords)?

Nigeria is a signatory to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority Act 2004, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment 1979 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2004.

Regulatory authorities

Which government authorities regulate immigration and what is the extent of their enforcement powers? Can the decisions of these authorities be appealed?

The Nigerian Immigration Act established the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) as its regulatory body. The NIS is a body corporate that can sue and be sued and is charged with the primary responsibility of implementing the Immigration Act. The NIS has been vested with the power to prosecute an action against any person who breaches the provisions of the Immigration Act.

Decisions of the NIS can be appealed.

Government policy

In broad terms what is your government’s policy towards business immigration?

The federal government of Nigeria is generally keen to encourage the immigration of skilled foreign nationals who intend to take up employment or do business in Nigeria. The cardinal focus of the policy of the government is to attract foreign investment, boost tourism, increase employment opportunities and better secure Nigeria’s borders. Notwithstanding its general stance, the Nigerian government recently invoked the Nigerian Oil and Gas Content Development Act 2010 (the Nigerian Local Content Act), with the aim of allowing more Nigerians to occupy managerial, professional and supervisory roles in companies participating within the oil and gas industry.

Short-term transfers

Visas

In what circumstances is a visa necessary for short-term travellers? How are short-term visas obtained?

Depending on the purpose of travel, an individual may require either a temporary work permit (TWP) or a business visitor’s visa. In the first instance, a TWP is necessary where a company in Nigeria intends to bring in an individual to undertake short-term technical assignments for no more than 60 days. In the second instance, the business visitor’s visa is necessary where a foreign individual intends on visiting Nigeria for the purpose of attending meetings and interviews and not for employment purposes. The process of obtaining a TWP is initiated through an application to the Comptroller General of Immigration (CGI) of the NIS and ultimately ends with the issuance of the visa by the Nigerian diplomatic mission in the individual’s country of residence. As regards obtaining a business visitor’s visa, this can be obtained from the Nigerian diplomatic mission in the individual’s country of residence or, for convenience, the alternative of receiving a business visa on arrival in the country is possible.

Restrictions

What are the main restrictions on a business visitor?

A business visitor is restricted from taking up employment or undertaking any form of work while he or she is in the country. He or she can, however, participate in meetings and interviews. With regard to length of stay, the business visa guarantees an individual unrestricted leave to remain for a period of no more than 90 days at a time. Permissible business activities include the following:

  • visiting local offices or subsidiaries;
  • holding and attending business meetings, lectures, programmes and round-table discussions;
  • attending seminars and administrative training;
  • attending information-gathering sessions for corporate decision-making;
  • participating in exhibitions, shows and concerts; and
  • invitations by a state government, ministry or any agency of government for meetings and consultations.
Short-term training

Is work authorisation or immigration permission needed to give or receive short-term training?

Immigration permission is needed in both instances. An individual would require a TWP, which is a short-term work authorisation for the purpose of giving short-term training. Conversely, where he or she intends to receive training, either a business visitor’s visa or a student visa would be necessary, depending on the nature and duration of the training.

Transit

Are transit visas required to travel through your country? How are these obtained? Are they only required for certain nationals?

Transit visas are required. This class of visa can be obtained from Nigerian diplomatic missions overseas following the submission of an application and the fulfilment of other requirements. ECOWAS nationals are exempted from procuring a transit visa.

Visa waivers and fast-track entry

Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?

No.

Long-term transfers

Categories

What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

Companies that wish to hire skilled staff can do so via a TWP, a combined expatriate residence permit and aliens card (CERPAC) or an ECOWAS card. These are the three modes of transferring skilled staff.

Procedures

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

The TWP is initiated through an application to the CGI and ultimately ends with the issuance of the visa by the Nigerian diplomatic mission in the assignee’s country of residence. The CERPAC begins with the grant of a subject to regularisation (STR) visa in the assignee’s country of residence. On arrival in Nigeria, the assignee would need to regularise the work visa by applying for the CERPAC. An ECOWAS card is the permit applicable to ECOWAS citizens who desire to reside and work in Nigeria. To apply for an ECOWAS card, an application letter requesting the card must be sent to the NIS, along with the following documents:

  • an ECOWAS travel certificate or international passport with at least six months’ validity;
  • a photocopy of the biodata page of the travel certificate or passport;
  • two copies of the applicant’s recent passport photograph; and
  • a duly completed and signed application form.

ECOWAS citizens that intend to take up employment must also submit the following additional documents:

  • a letter of employment;
  • a letter of acceptance of offer of employment;
  • copies of professional or educational certificates;
  • a copy of their CV; and
  • evidence of registration with professional bodes.

An ECOWAS card is valid for two years and can be renewed for two additional years.

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

A TWP is necessary where a company in Nigeria intends to assign an individual to undertake a short-term assignment. It is imperative to note that the TWP visa is valid for 90 days. The CERPAC allows expatriate employees to live and work in Nigeria for 12 months. The assignee may also apply for a renewal of his or her resident permit for a further period provided the quota position remains valid.

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

The application process for both categories usually takes eight to 10 weeks.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

Under Nigerian immigration laws, the CGI may require provision to be made for repatriation or bond payment into the consolidated revenue fund by way of deposit of an amount as prescribed by the Minister of Interior before a work authorisation may be secured.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

The Nigerian immigration authorities follow both objective and discretionary criteria as provided for under relevant laws and regulations and policy directives of the government.

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

The federal government of Nigeria has introduced a policy to encourage foreign investment in Nigeria. Although the policy does not state the minimum investment required to benefit from this development, the discretion for this special route has been delegated to the NIS.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

No.

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

No.

Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

No.

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

Nigerian immigration laws do not make provision for a minimum salary. The issue of (minimum) salaries is typically determined based on existing collective bargaining agreements or individual contracts.

Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

There are no broad-based standards in this regard. However, in respect of the Nigerian oil and gas industry, the Nigerian Local Content Act details a standard for employment of individuals, giving priority to the employment of Nigerians and also identifying an employment and training programme for Nigerians as a necessary ingredient on any project. This Act further states that, where Nigerians considered for employment lack the necessary training, all endeavours must be made to provide this training within or outside Nigeria. The foregoing applies to both TWP and CERPAC.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?

No.

Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

No.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

Typically, work permission is tied to the companies that obtain this permission on behalf of the expatriate employee. Consequently, third-party contractors must also apply for work permits for their employees.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

Yes, the skills and qualifications of immigrants are assessed before immigration permission is granted.

Extensions and variations

Short-term to long-term status

Can a short-term visa be converted in-country into longer-term authorisations? If so, what is the process?

There is no procedure that allows for immediate conversion of short-term visas into longer-term authorisation. Current procedure dictates that a holder of a short-term visa who wishes to obtain a long-term authorisation (ie, work permit permission) makes an application for the same to the Nigerian diplomatic mission in his or her country of residence. His or her application should typically be supported by the relevant documentation necessary for the application.

Long-term extension

Can long-term immigration permission be extended?

Work or resident permits are typically valid for 12 months and can thereafter be renewed for a further period of 12 months, provided the expatriate quota grant of a company remains valid.

As regards requirements for exit, with specific reference to the oil and gas industry, the Nigerian Local Content Act provides that an industry operator is required to submit a succession plan covering any position not held by Nigerians with a provision for Nigerians to understudy each incumbent expatriate for a maximum period of four years, after which the position shall become ‘Nigerianised’ (except for the retention of a maximum of 5 per cent of management positions to take care of the interests of investors).

Exit and re-entry

What are the rules on and implications of exit and re-entry for work permits?

A holder of a TWP cannot re-enter the country after exiting, as this is a single-entry visa. A holder of a CERPAC can exit and re-enter the country during the time span of the CERPAC or the expatriate quota with which the CERPAC renewal is granted.

Permanent residency and citizenship

How can immigrants qualify for permanent residency or citizenship?

Immigrants can qualify for permanent residency or citizenship by registration or naturalisation. The process of registration can be achieved either by the conferring of special immigration or ‘Niger wives’ status. The special immigration status is granted to an immigrant who is married to a female Nigerian citizen, while ‘Niger wives’ status is conferred on an immigrant who is married to a male citizen of Nigeria. In regard to naturalisation, it is required that an individual must be at least 17 years of age and have resided in Nigeria for at least 15 years, is of good character and plans to remain in Nigeria, is familiar with any of the Nigerian languages and customs, has a viable means of support and has renounced any previous citizenship.

End of employment

Must immigration permission be cancelled at the end of employment in your jurisdiction?

On termination of employment of an expatriate employee who possesses a CERPAC permit, the employer is required to notify the NIS of the immigrant’s disengagement and also further apply that the immigrant be deleted from the position occupied on the employer’s expatriate quota grant.

Employee restrictions

Are there any specific restrictions on a holder of employment permission?

The holder of employment is restricted to working and residing in Nigeria based on a contract of employment with the employer who procured the immigration permission on his or her behalf.

Dependants

Eligibility

Who qualifies as a dependant?

Nigerian immigration law does not expressly prescribe who qualifies as a dependant. However, it is safe to assume that a dependant is an individual under the age of 18 years or a minor who is under the guidance of an adult. This assumption is based on the fact that an application for STR visas follows the mode of applying for a foreigner, his or her spouse and dependants.

Also, the Immigration Act provides that a person under the age of 18 years, who has in his or her possession a valid passport or is unaccompanied by an adult, is prohibited from entering into the country on his or her arrival at a port of entry.

Conditions and restrictions

Are dependants automatically allowed to work or attend school?

No, dependants are absolutely barred from working owing to the classification of permit granted to them; they are, however, allowed to attend any school of their choice.

Access to social benefits

What social benefits are dependants entitled to?

Dependants are not entitled to any specific social benefits in accordance with 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 or her employer.

Other requirements, restrictions and penalties

Criminal convictions

Are prior criminal convictions a barrier to obtaining immigration permission?

Yes.

Penalties for non-compliance

What are the penalties for companies and individuals for non-compliance with immigration law? How are these applied in practice?

Penalties for non-compliance with immigration law include the payment of fines, imprisonment, deportation for individuals and in respect of companies, and could range from payment of fines to an application for winding up the entity. Pursuant to the provisions of the Immigration Act, an individual can be summarily convicted for an offence under the Act by any competent court. The penalty may be either the payment of a reasonable fine or term of imprisonment as stipulated by immigration law. Also, where it appears to the CGI that the business owned by a deported immigrant should be wound up, he or she may make the necessary application to a competent high court.

Language requirements

Are there any minimum language requirements for migrants?

Nigerian immigration laws are silent as regards any minimum language requirements for immigrants.

Medical screening

Is medical screening required to obtain immigration permission?

No. However, some Nigerian diplomatic missions insist upon proof that an immigrant has been immunised against certain communicable diseases (yellow fever, smallpox, etc).

Secondment

Is there a specific procedure for employees on secondment to a client site in your jurisdiction?

No.

Update and trends

Key developments of the past year

Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?

Key developments of the past year40 Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?

Recent changes relating to corporate immigration in Nigeria include:

  • the introduction of a Nigerian international passport with a 10-year validity (although not a requirement to any application or immigration process, the 10-year passport is the official travel document for Nigerian citizens and plays a major role in the country’s corporate immigration as a whole);
  • the introduction of Executive Order No. 5 of 2019 for the development of local content in the science, engineering and technology fields; the Order also prohibits the Ministry of Interior from giving visas to foreign workers whose skills are readily available in Nigeria;
  • the introduction of the new e-yellow card, which is given to people who have been vaccinated against yellow fever; and
  • in January 2019, CERPAC fees increased from US$1,000 to US$2,000.