Expatriates who wish to work in Free Zone-licensed companies in Nigeria are not exempted from the immigration regulations and requirements. Though the application process is almost the same as other visas, this visa is different in terms of documentation, authorized places of work and activities.
What are free or export processing zones?
They can be described as designated areas, where businesses are exempt from the normal legal regime applicable in Nigeria, particularly about some aspects of immigration procedure and customs duty and tax. Free zones are usually organized around major seaports, international airports, and national frontiers-areas with many geographic advantages for trade.
Activities carried out in free zones include: manufacturing of goods for export, warehousing freight forwarding and customs clearance, handling of duty free goods (transhipment, sorting, marketing, packaging, etc.), banking, stock exchange and other financial services; insurance and re-insurance, import of goods for special services, exhibitions and publicity, International Commercial Arbitration Services Activities relating to integrated zones, and other activities deemed appropriate by the Authority.1
In Nigeria, these areas are governed by the Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority. The Authority serves both as an operator and a regulator.2 The applicable laws in respect of these zones are the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Act (the NEPZ Act) and the Investment Procedures, Regulations and Operational Guidelines for Free Zones in Nigeria 2004 (the NEPZ Regulations)3.
Free zones in Nigeria are:
- Adamawa State- Sebore Farms EPZ
- Akwa Ibom State- ALSCON EPZ
- Cross River State-Calabar Free Trade Zone (CFTZ)
- Enugu State-Enpower Free Trade Zone
- FCT-Centenary Economic City, Abuja Tech. Village Free Zone, Newrest Airline Service & Logistic FTC
- Kano State-Kano Free Trade Zone (KFTZ)
- Lagos State- Newrest Airline Services & Logistic EPZ, Dangote Industries Free Zone, Ladol Free Zone, Lagos Free Trade Zone, Lekki Free Zone, Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO), Nigeria International Commerce City (Eko Atlantic), Snake Island Integrated Free Zone, Tomaro Industrial Park, Quits Aviation Services FZ, Pan African Catering Services FZ, NASCO FZ, Alaro City Lekki Free Zone
- Ogun State-Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone, Celplas Industries Free Trade Zone
- Delta State- AHL Energy Free Trade Zone
- Rivers State- Bundu Free Trade Zone
Immigation requirement to work in the free zone
The NEPZ Act 4 provides that expatriates employed by the Authority or approved (licensed) enterprises established in the free zone should apply for permit on behalf of the expatriate for the purpose of immigration and employment permits, in such a manner as may be prescribed by the Authority. The Authority shall work in consultation with the Nigerian Immigration Service to publish agreed guidelines, procedures and regulations.5
Please note the following about free zone visas:
- Expatriates that want to work in the free zone in Nigeria must
- A subject to regularization visa and regularize in-country or
- A temporary work permit
- Expatriate Quota is not a requirement for Free Zone Entry Visa
- Free Zone expatiates must only work within the free zone area
- Free Zone Expatriates shall be allowed to reside in or outside the Free Zones, expatriates must be registered in the Free Zone Expatriates' Register (name, nationality, employer, CERPAC details and place of residence).
Procedure for obtaining Free Zone visa
- Make the appropriate visa application
- Submit documents at the Nigerian Embassy or the Online Integrated Solution (OIS) office in the country of birth or residence.
The following documents will be submitted:
- Duly completed and signed printout of Entry Visa application
- Payment and acknowledgement slip
- Formal application for STR visa made by the Employer to the Nigeria Embassy or High Commission
- Letter of introduction/support from relevant Free Zone Authority
- IMM.22 with passport photographs affixed
- Letter of Offer of Employment and Contract of employment from licensed Free Zone company
- Letter of acceptance of employment
- Photocopies of educational qualifications and CV of previous work experience
- Valid International Passport (must possess a minimum of 6 months validity)
- Two (2) passport photographs
- Incorporation documents of employer
Regularisation of Stay for expatraites in Nigeria with a Subject to Regularzation Visa
All foreigners residing in Nigeria must regularize their stay by obtaining a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC). The CERPAC is valid for a year and can be renewed.
Requirements for CERPAC
- formal application to the Free Zone Immigration Service for regularization, stating post to be occupied, nationality and accepting immigration responsibilities. Application for regularisation must be made within 3 months from the date of arrival into the country;
- international passport with a valid STR (subject to regularization) visa;
- STR package as collected from the Nigerian Embassy or IOS office
Change of employment
Expatriates that want to take up employment with another company can apply for a change of employment.
- formal application to NIS through the Authority/Zone Management requesting for change of employment and acceptance of immigration responsibilities
- Letter of no objection from former employer
- letter of offer of employment from Free Zone Employer
- Acceptance of employment letter
- Corporate documents of the Company
- board of Director's resolution (where applicable);
- Copy of the former CERPAC card with former employer
- Business permit of the company (if applicable)
- Expatriate Quota of the company (required if the new employer operates outside the free zone)
2. while the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone (OGEFZ) is specifically managed by the OGEFZ Authority
3. Part 9- Immigration Procedure and Regulations
4. Section 20
5. Premable, part 9 Investment Procedures, Regulations and Operational Guidelines for Free Zones in Nigeria 2004
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.