As of 25th May, 2015, a new Immigration Act has been introduced in Nigeria, replacing the outdated Immigration Act of 1963.
The Act has introduced stricter penalties for employers that do not comply with the new immigration laws. Companies are required to take complete responsibility for their foreign employees before their work and residence permits are approved. They are also held liable if their foreign employees fail to obtain and renew the relevant permits.
The offences and subsequent penalties include:
Foreign nationals will be liable for a fine of up to NGN 2,000,000 (approximately USD $10,000), up to 1 year imprisonment and/or immediate deportation should they fail to apply for a residence permit within 3 months of arriving in Nigeria, renew a residence permit within 30 days of its expiration, or stay in the country on an expired Business Visa, Transit Visa, Temporary Work Permit, etc.
Failure to renew the expatriate quota or file the expatriate monthly report to the Nigeria Immigration Service may result in a fine of NGN 3,000,000 (approximately USD $15,000) for the company, and a fine of NGN 1,000,000 (approximately USD $5,000) and/or imprisonment up to one year for the corporate representative in-charge;
If a company itself is convicted of an offence under the new act, this can generally result in a fine of NGN 2,000,000, as well as lead to further investigation. The new act even allows for the court to order a permanent closure of the company. This measure is likely to occur in very serious offences and/or repeat offenders however. In addition, the company official deemed responsible, either through negligence or wilful act, may be personally fined for up to NGN 2,000,000 and/or may face up to 3 years of imprisonment.
Power of Arrest and Detention
Under the new act, new powers have been handed to immigration officers to detain foreign nationals if there is reasonable cause to believe they are in violation of immigration law.
Additionally, both permanent and mobile immigration courts will be established at ports of entry, which will receive the power to rule on accusations of violation. These immigration courts will be able to detain an alleged offender for up to 21 days initially and up to 90 days in total before trial takes place.
The new immigration act has also included the provision which requires that approval must be obtained by a foreign employee from the Controller General of Immigration (CGI) before changing employment or be subject to deportation.
The CGI is now also responsible for approving and issuing Temporary Work Permits.
Advice for employers
Employers in Nigeria should conduct a stringent review of their immigration policy to ensure compliance to the new Immigration Law. Non-compliance of a company”s internal policies would result in high fines for the company and risks of individual fines and imprisonment for employers.
Foreign employees should be made aware of the risks of working without the valid immigration documents.
Please contact Newland Chase for more information and assistance with your immigration enquiries regarding Nigeria.