Foreign nationals establishing a trade, business, or profession in Nigeria must first obtain a business permit from the Minister of Interior (MOI), usually granted for 90 days with the possibility of a 30-day extension. As the business permit does not include residence authorization, most foreign nationals then apply for a residence permit in-country. The new regulations now clarify that even upon obtaining residence authorization, business permits must still be renewed. While past practice was often to forgo renewing the business permit once a residence permit was issued, the regulations now include penalties for failing to renew business permits.
The new regulations now provide a Temporary Work Permit (TWP) which is a single-entry work authorization, valid for two to three months, with a possible 30-day extension available in-country. Significant penalties also now apply for failing to obtain requisite extensions. Note that this TWP is granted outside the current expatriate quota levels which apply only to more long-term work permits.
For longer work assignments, companies must apply for a work permit under the expatriate quota through the MOI. In a significant improvement in that stream, foreign nationals may now request a “stay of action” letter which allows them to remain in-country pending an expatriate quota renewal and issuance of a renewed work permit, if the initial expatriate quota work permit expires.
The new regulations have also further defined the rules and processes for residence permits. The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service (CGI) has been tasked with administration of all residence authorizations. The regulations now clarify that residence permits may be granted for stays up to two years. Also of significant benefit to companies and their foreign employees, the regulations now expressly provide that foreign nationals who have pending residence permit applications may travel internationally and re-enter Nigeria during the first 90 days from their original entry.
The new regulations also call for a new long-term Investment Visa which gives the holder permanent residence status. However, the regulations do not yet formally contain the details of the minimum investment threshold, permissible form of investment, or length of investment.
Visas on Arrival
As Pro-Link GLOBAL reported previously, Nigeria recently greatly expanded its visa-on-arrival scheme to accommodate business travelers from nations with no Nigerian overseas consular post. The new regulations now take that scheme one step further by opening the visa-on-arrival option to all foreign nationals, regardless of their country of residence. However, note that the “visa on arrival approval letter” obtained by an in-country sponsor must still be in hand when the foreign national arrives and requests the visa-on-arrival at his/her port of entry.
The new regulations also call for the establishment of a new nation-wide register of foreign nationals in Nigeria. Once implemented, all foreign nationals obtaining residence permits will be required to register their residences at the NIS office in the state where they reside and make subsequent updates to their registration whenever they change their residence. Landlords and owners of hotels, boarding houses, and other lodging accommodations will be required to maintain records of their foreign guests, including names, addresses, occupations, passport information, and arrival and departure dates.