On 20th March 2017, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) issued the Immigration Regulations 2017, implementing the Immigration Act 2015.
The Regulations introduce a residence registration requirement, extend the validity period of residence permits, allow the Minister of Interior to stay the deportation of foreign nationals while an application for renewal of their employer’s Expatriate Quota is pending, and revamp penalties for non-compliance.
The Regulations introduce a requirement for foreign nationals to register with the National Immigration Service (NIS) in the State where they reside, within seven days of arrival.
Upon registration, the foreign national will be issued a certificate of registration, a copy of which they should carry with them at all times in case of inspection by the NIS.
In addition, foreign nationals who intend to change their residence status, or have changes in their circumstances, must notify the NIS office in the state where they are registered within seven days.
Private landlords and hotel managers are now required to keep a register of their foreign national tenants and guests, and to confirm their immigration status.
Registration for ECOWAS nationals
Registration with the NIS is also now required for nationals of Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS), who do not require visas or work permits to enter or take up employment in Nigeria. This registration must be completed within 90 days of entry and prior to the employment start date.
The Regulations allow residence permits to be granted for a period of stay of up to two years, in line with the Expatriate Quota approval. Previously, residence permits were granted for stays of a maximum of one year.
Stay of Deportation
In practice, while an application for the renewal of an Expatriate Quota (EQ) is pending, the EQ could expire, making the relevant expatriates liable to deportation. The Regulations have codified a solution to this problem by allowing the Minister to issue a stay of action for such deportations. Eligibility for such a stay is dependent on the existence of a pending EQ application.
The Regulations provide that foreign nationals who fail to:
- regularise their stay within the prescribed three months,
- renew their business permit, visitor’s visa, transit visa or temporary work permit after expiration, or
- renew their resident permit within thirty days from expiration,
are liable on conviction to a term of three years’ imprisonment or a fine of NGN 500,000 (about USD 1600) or both.
The Regulations provide that an employer that fails to renew the expatriate quota or render its expatriate monthly returns commits an offence and is liable to a fine of NGN 3,000,000 (about USD 9800).
The penalty for failure to employ local employees to understudy foreign nationals is NGN 3,000,000 (about USD 9800) for each month the expatriate quota position has been occupied without an understudy. The relevant expatriate employees will also be deported.
It is also an offence to allow another company utilise the expatriate quota position. This is referred to as ‘quota trafficking’ and the penalty is NGN 3,000,000 (about USD 9800).
Employers of foreign nationals in Nigeria should check that they are compliant with the new immigration regulations, and that their foreign national employees have registered at the NIS in their State of residence.
For further advice on Nigerian immigration, please email us at email@example.com.