The principal law that governs the employment of expatriate in Nigeria is the Nigeria Immigration Act Cap 171, LFN 2004 and the Immigration Regulations made thereto. While the principal regulatory agencies are the Nigerian Immigration Service and the Federal Ministry of Interior. Any foreigner who intends to work in Nigeria must obtain the consent of the comptroller General of immigration, this consent is obtained in the form of an expatriate quota by the company or organization which permits them to employ expatriates to specific approved jobs and for a specific period of time with a view of training Nigerian under them and transferring these requisite skills during their period of employment as provided under the section 8 of the Immigration Act. The reason behind expatriate quota is to avoid the indiscriminate employment of expatriates where there are qualified Nigerians who can fit into those positions.

Expatriate quotas may be granted for an initial period of 3 years, it can however be renewed for further periods of two years each subject to a total life span of 10 years within which such relevant skills ought to have been transferred to qualified Nigerian who were under studying such expatriates.

Procedures and Documents Required for Obtaining an Expatriate Quota

To obtain an expatriate quota, the employer will have to submit an application to the Federal Ministry of Interior in the prescribed form along with the following supporting documents: incorporation documents; current tax clearance certificate; lease agreement or Certificate of Occupancy in respect of business premises; feasibility study report; evidence of imported machinery; license/permit/certificate from relevant government agencies where the company is engaged in oil services, health services, fishing, mining or construction; evidence of work at hand and value attached to the contract(s) where the company is engaged in building, civil engineering or construction; proposed annual salaries to be paid to the expatriates to be employed indicating their job title, names, and qualifications; detailed training programs for Nigerian understudies; certificate of capital importation (not applicable to companies with 100% indigenous equity holding); bank reference letter; completed Immigration Form T1; and letter of no objection from the Nigerian Content Monitoring Board for companies operating in the oil and gas sector.

Subject to Regularization (STR)Visa:

The STR Visa is to be obtained by expatriates who have been offered permanent employment with a Nigerian company. An expatriate that enters into Nigeria on an STR visa will usually be placed on the expatriate quota of a Nigerian company and therefore considered to be a full-time employee of such company. An STR visa is usually issued for an initial period of 90 days by the Nigerian Embassy overseas, during which the expatriate must obtain resident permit after arrival in Nigeria with the STR Visa.

Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC)

This is a very important permit that is required to be obtained by expatriates that wish to live and work in Nigeria. The application for CERPAC can only be processed where expatriate quota approval has already been obtained, it gives such an expatriate the permission to live and work in Nigeria for up to 2 years and also subject to renewal based on the validity of the expatriate quota.

Note that while Expatriate Quota is to be obtained by companies seeking to employ expatriates, Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card is to be obtained by individual expatriate who wants to lawfully reside and work in Nigeria.

Taxation of Expatriate:

The principal legislation which regulates taxation in Nigeria is the Personal Income Tax Act. Generally, an employee is regarded as resident in Nigeria if he is domiciled in Nigeria for a period of 183 days or more in any 12 months period. However, expatriates who have been granted STR visas or issued a CERPAC are deemed to be tax resident in Nigeria. Such expatiates are liable to tax in Nigeria irrespective of the length of their stay.

An expatriate's personal income tax is payable to the State Inland Revenue Services and is usually assessed using his actual income. But where the State Inland Revenue services have reasons to believe that the taxable income is understated, they can use their discretion to determine on a best of judgment basis. Note however, where an expatriate can prove his actual income, the State Revenue agent will be left with no choice but to accept the expatriate's actual income as the basis of assessment.

The personal income tax of an expatriate employed in Nigeria is to be deducted at source from any emolument paid, or from any payment made on account of the emolument, by the employer to the employee. The employer is required to file a return of all emoluments paid to the expatriate, not later than January 31st of every year in respect to the preceding year as provided in Section 81 (1) & (2) of Personal Income Tax Act.


Every expatriate seeking to work in Nigeria must do so through a registered company in Nigeria. The company must firstly obtain an expatriate quota from the Federal Ministry of Interiors, which the expatriate can be subsequently used or relied upon to process an STR visa followed by the work permit (otherwise known as CERPAC).

Every employer of expatriates in Nigeria has an obligation to ensure the personal income taxes of such expatriates are duly deducted and comply with tax regulations. Where an employer fails to make proper deductions or fails to account properly for deductions made, the employer commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a penalty of the total sum of taxes due and ten percent per annum.

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.