• New Regulations Implement 2015 Immigration Act
  • May 10, 2017
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • Nigerian immigration authorities have issued regulations to implement the 2015 Immigration Act and to consolidate existing immigration rules. The regulations do not change existing transactional immigration processes or implement new responsibilities for employers of foreign workers, but instead set criminal penalties for employers that do not comply with already-existing rules under the Immigration Act. The new regulations provide details on Business Permits, the Spousal Residence Permit, a new investment visa pathway, an expanded visa-on-arrival and a new registration requirement for foreign nationals, among other changes.

    Key provisions are explained below.

    Business Permit and Foreign Worker Quota Provisions

    The regulations have codified the requirement for all companies in Nigeria with foreign ownership or shareholders to obtain a Business Permit.

    Companies with pending quota renewal applications will be issued a stay of action letter which bars deportation proceedings until a decision is made.

    Temporary Work Permit

    The Temporary Work Permit (TWP) can now be extended in country for a further 30 days. Additionally, the regulations stipulate that those who fail to renew their TWP are subject to three years’ imprisonment or a fine of 500,000 Naira after conviction.

    Residence Permit

    The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service (CGI) now has the discretion to issue Residence Permits for a period of up to two years provided the company has a valid foreign worker quota. The Residence Permit was previously valid for one year only.

    Investment Visa

    The 2015 Immigration Act establishes an investment visa for foreign nationals that meet certain investment criteria. The new regulations state that eligible foreign nationals qualify for a permanent Residence Permit. Future regulations are expected to qualify the minimum investment amount and other related details.

    Visa-on-Arrival

    The visa-on-arrival is now available to all business travellers, whereas in the past only executives of multi-national companies and those from countries without a Nigerian consular post were eligible.

    Spousal Residence Permit

    The new regulations also establish a multiple-entry Spousal Residence Permit for foreign nationals married to Nigerian nationals. Previously, the law only allowed male applicants to apply for the Spousal Residence Permit on behalf of their female spouse; now the law allows female applicants to apply for their male spouses. Same-sex partners are still not recognised for the purposes of immigration law.

    New Registration Requirement

    Foreign nationals arriving in and departing from Nigeria must now register and obtain a certificate of registration. Additionally, foreign nationals who intend to change their residence status or whose circumstances have changed since registration must notify NIS in the state where they are registered within seven days of the change. The authorities have not provided guidance on where and how the registration will be conducted.

    Landlords and hotels must keep track of the foreign nationals staying in their establishments.

    Penalties

    The rules set criminal penalties for employers that do not comply with already-existing rules under the Immigration Act and reiterate that employers are responsible for ensuring that foreign employees comply with immigration laws. Noncomplying employers are subject to the following penalties, as outlined in the Immigration Act 2015:

    Failure to renew a TWP may result in imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of NGN 500,000.

    Employers may be fined NGN 3,000,000 for failure to renew their foreign worker quota or render foreign worker tax returns.

    Employers failing to employ Nigerian nationals as understudies for foreign employees may be fined NGN 3,000,000 for each month of noncompliance.

    Employers who engage in quota trafficking, i.e., allowing another company to utilize its foreign worker quota positions, are subject to a penalty of NRN 3,000,000.

    What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals

    Employers and foreign nationals must comply with the new regulations and should note the above penalties and new registration requirement.

    The new renewal period for the TWP, the expanded criteria for the visa-on-arrival and Spousal Residence Permit and the longer Residence Permit validity period should benefit foreign nationals.

    Further details and implementation guidance are expected to be published in the near future.