On 4 February 2020, The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) launched the NVP 2020. According to the President, the NVP 2020 was geared towards the attainment of the Federal Government's Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and adoption of Security, Economy and Transparency (SET) as the government's policy thrust on ERGP. The policy was launched with the expectation that it would help facilitate the ease of doing business, boost tourism efforts, make Nigeria an investment friendly nation and improve the country's bilateral and multilateral relationships.
Following the launch, on 1 October 2020, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) announced the commencement of the implementation of the NVP 2020 as approved by the Honourable Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. However, despite these laudable announcements, many aspects of the NVP 2020 are yet to be implemented.
This publication will review the status of the implementation of the NVP 2020 and proffer recommendations that would address some of the constraints that may have impeded the full implementation of the policy since its launch.
The Nigeria Visa Policy 2020: Key Highlights
In evaluating the state of implementation of the NVP 2020, it is important to highlight some key aspects of the policy.
- Reclassification of existing 6 classes of visas into 2 broad categories: Visa Free/Exemption and Visa Mandatory. The policy further classified the 2 categories into 79 new classes to cover various purposes for visit or residency in Nigeria. The intention of this is to cater for a wide range of travel purposes previously generalized under transit, tourism, business, and work.
- Introduction of the electronic visa (e-Visa) - The NVP 2020 made provision for the issuance of the electronic visa (e-Visa) as a separate channel for processing and obtaining Nigerian visas alongside the existing ones: Visa on Arrival and visas at the Nigerian diplomatic missions abroad. According to the Policy, the e-Visa would only be available in the category of Short Visit Visas (SVV) to travellers intending to visit Nigeria for a period not exceeding three months.
- Clarification on eligibility and requirements for visa on arrival – Under the new visa regime, VoA would be made available to holders of passports of African Union member states for short visits and citizens of all countries for tourism, business, or emergency relief work purposes. Also, Nigerians in diaspora with dual citizenships, infants born abroad and Nigerians (who have renounced their citizenship) would be able to access the VoA facility.
- Creation of Permanent Residence visa category - The NVP 2020 birthed a new visa category, the Permanent Residence visas. This category permits certain classes of individuals such as spouses of Nigerians, Nigerians by birth who had previously renounced their citizenship and their spouses, investors with specified minimum capital threshold ranging from $250,000 - $100,000,000, highly skilled individuals and retirees to reside in Nigeria. Migrants in this category are expected to be granted residency with the minimum validity being 5 years renewable residency to indefinite, as accommodated by the holder's passport validity. Reclassification of the Temporary Work Permit (TWP) and Subject to Regularization (STR) visa - The new NVP 2020 has reclassified the TWP and STR visas to suit the specific intricacies of short-term and long-term employment/residence respectively of expatriates in Nigeria.
- The TWP is now divided into single entry visa for 90 days (F8A) and multiple entry visa for 180 days (R11):
- Temporary Work Permit Visa - F8A, which is a single-entry visa and allows experts invited by corporate bodies for the purpose of providing specialized skills services such as installation of machinery and specialized raining to enter and stay in Nigeria for up to 90 days.
- Temporary Work Permit (6 months) Visa – R11 which is a multiple entry visa and is intend to be issued to experts invited by corporate bodies for the purpose of providing specialized services including installation of machinery and training and allows holders to stay in Nigeria for a non-renewable period of 6 months.
- The policy renamed the STR visa as a Temporary Residence visa and unbundled it into different classes ranging from R2A for a principal expatriate employed by an organization, to R6E for a dependant of a cleric employed in Nigeria, with residence permits granted for a period not exceeding two years subject to meeting other immigration requirements upon submission of an application to the NIS."
Current State Assessment and Implication of Delay in Full Implementation of the NVP 2020
Despite the largely positive response that greeted the launch of the NVP 2020, an assessment of the state of implementation of the policy revealed that implementation of many aspects of the policy is still far from being a reality.
For example, although the NVP 2020 had provided for the issuance of additional visa types to cater for a wide range of travel purposes previously generalized under transit, tourism, business and work, a review of the visas being issued at the Nigerian Missions abroad indicates that most of the new expanded visa options are yet to be accessible.
For non-work travel purposes, intending applicants still have only the options of Business or Tourist Visas while for work-related purposes, the options are limited to 'Subject to Regularization' (STR) and 'Temporary Work Permit' (TWP).
Furthermore, the reclassification of the Temporary Work Permit (TWP) visa which was meant to be a critical game changer with respect to expatriate employment has also not seen the light of the day. The old TWP visa was issued to organizations requiring the services of qualified and highly skilled expatriate personnel to carry out specialized assignments, including after sales installation, maintenance, repair of machines and other equipment, training, audit of financial statements, among other work-related assignments for a short-term duration. To obtain the TWP visa, an application was required to be made to the Comptroller General of Immigration Service (CGIS) in Nigeria via email - email@example.com, requesting approval for the issuance of the TWP. The approval which was usually conveyed in the form of a TWP pre-approval letter is a pre-requisite for the issuance of the TWP visa at the relevant Nigerian Mission abroad.
In its current form, the TWP visa is a Single-Entry Visa and usually allows for an initial period of stay of 56 days. However, where there are compelling reasons for the continued stay of an expatriate on TWP, perhaps, due to the nature of the project being executed, an extension of stay could be obtained although the approval of the extension request is subject to the payment of the relevant statutory extension fees and the approval of the CGIS.
The reclassification of the TWP visa was expected to result in far-reaching changes to the current process and provide several benefits to organizations utilizing expatriate manpower in their business operations. Some of these benefits have been highlighted below:
- Significant cost savings – Specifically,
the R11 (multiple entry TWP visa) is meant to enable organizations
to engage expatriates directly for a period up of to 6 months
without requiring them to obtain Temporary Residence Permits
(CERPAC forms) at the cost of $2,000 USDs / expatriate.
The R11 visa is also expected to provide a significant cost savings opportunity for corporate bodies who have in the past had to pay fees ranging from $200 – $2,000 USDs to extend the stay of their expatriates on TWP visas. This is against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which has significantly impacted the bottom-line of many organizations.
- Stability and continuity of Business
The reclassification of the TWP visa and inclusion of a multiple entry TWP visa option is critical for enabling stability and continuity of projects and other business-related operations being implemented using expatriate manpower. Expatriates on TWP visa who needed to travel urgently out of the country were required to first obtain a new TWP pre-approval and subsequently visit the relevant Nigerian mission abroad to obtain another TWP visa before they could return to Nigeria to continue their assignment in the country.
The period of absence may result in disruptions to projects and this may have significant negative impact on the continued operations of many businesses in Nigeria.
- Expansion of Visa Options
The reclassification of the TWP visa also gives organizations the ability to evaluate their manpower needs and determine which of the visa category - Single or Multiple would suffice for their expatriates' short-term assignments to Nigeria. This was previously not the case as their option was limited to only the Single Entry TWP visa which clearly has many limitations some of which have now been addressed with the multiple entry TWP visa option.
However, the delayed implementation of the re-classification provision has inhibited organizations utilizing expatriate manpower from taking advantage of these benefits to drive the growth of their businesses and the Nigeria economy, while providing employment opportunities for the teeming population.
Another milestone in NVP that is yet to see the light of the day is the Investor's Visa, categorized under the new Permanent Residence Visas category. The Investor's visa was designed to serve as a tool to drive the flow of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) for setting-up businesses ranging from Small Scale Enterprises to Ultra Large Corporations as highlighted below:
- Small Scale Enterprise – investment capital of US$250,000 - US$500,000
- Medium Scale Enterprise - investment capital of US$500,000 - US$1,000,000
- Large Scale Corporations - investment capital of US$1,000,000 - US$10,000,000
- Ultra Large Corporations (non-Oil and Gas) - investment capital of US$10,000,000 – above
- Ultra Large Corporations (Oil / Gas / Power Sector) – minimum of US$100,000,000 as investors' capital
The non-implementation of this aspect of the policy may be detrimental to the Government's drive for FDIs from intending investors who are targeted and expected to be encouraged by the incentives attached to the visa, to either increase their investment portfolio or set up new businesses in Nigeria.
Recommendations / Conclusion
There is no doubt that Nigeria stands to benefit significantly from the full implementation of the NVP 2020. It is therefore important for the NIS, with the support of the Federal Ministry of Interior and other relevant agencies of government to urgently put measures in place to ensure the full implementation of the policy. Specifically, it is recommended that the NIS should:
- Evaluate and assess the reasons for the delayed implementation of the policy and remove possible cogs in the wheels of progress.
- Invest in training and retraining of personnel to bridge any knowledge gaps for them to properly evaluate visa requests that are submitted for processing, given the extensive range of categories that are contained in the NVP 2020.
- Invest in up-do-date technology to facilitate production of new visa vignettes required for the issuance of the new visa types. Some equipment may also need to be installed at the various missions abroad for efficient biometric capturing and prompt review of visa applications.
- Recruit and deploy additional personnel to the Nigerian Missions abroad to meet the expected increase in visa applications as soon as the full implementation of the policy commences.
The benefits of a full-scale implementation of the NVP 2020 cannot be overemphasized as this would not only help improve Nigeria's position as a globally competitive economy, attract innovation, and encourage the transfer of knowledge but also demonstrate the government's willingness to respond to the changing needs of visitors and other travelers to Nigeria.
However, measures should be implemented by the government to guard against abuse of the new policy and ensure that only those who meet the requirements as specified in the policy are issued the required visas to facilitate their entry to Nigeria.
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