In the immigration law landscape, we also take a look at doing business in Nigeria, the obstacles, benefits, timescales and considerations to make. Here, Bisi Adeyemi, Managing Director of DCSL Corporate Services Limited talks to Lawyer Monthly about business immigration, establishing a company in Nigeria, investing, expatriate employment, temporary visas and the avenues to quicker establishment in the West African nation.
Are there any challenges involved in the business immigration work you do? How do you help your clients navigate these?
Key challenges relate to bureaucratic bottlenecks. The most recurrent is the delay in the production of Permanent CERPAC Cards (Residency Cards) for expatriates by the Nigeria Immigration Service after processing Temporary Permits. Expatriates who are issued with the Permanent Cards after three months of purchase of their CERPAC Forms typically experience some difficulties with the Immigration while travelling out or into the country.
We manage these problems by leveraging on our long-standing relationship with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to ensure timely processing of our clients’ Permanent CERPAC Cards.
What are the primary restrictions on temporary business visits in Nigeria?
There are typically no restrictions on temporary business visits to Nigeria. Extant Laws and Regulations allow for free and unrestricted access to business opportunities, Business Set up, as well as the repatriation of both capital and profits. Genuine investors are provided incentives that would encourage them to set up and do business in Nigeria in all sectors of the economy. The recently introduced ‘Visa on Arrival’ removes hitherto existing obstacles to the process of obtaining business visas by prospective investors. The Visa on Arrival allows access to Nigeria without the need to process travel documents in their home or countries of residence. Visas can be issued to such expatriates at the point of arrival in Nigeria. However, such expatriates must show genuine intention to invest in Nigeria and evidence of relevant financial resources to do so.
What are the steps and timescales involved in obtaining a business permit for a foreign company’s employees in Nigeria?
The steps for obtaining business permit for a foreign company which has not been registered in Nigeria are:
- Incorporation of the company in Nigeria to enable it to qualify for grant of business permit and expatriate quota positions.
- Importation of capital through authorised channels.
- Submission of the application with the requisite documentation and active follow up.
It takes approximately 6 to 8 weeks to process a business permit.
Companies with Expatriate shareholding must show evidence of a minimum of N10,000,000 (approx. $32,000) authorised share capital before they can be issued a Business Permit.
To enable a company employ Expatriates, it must apply for and be issued with an Expatriate Quota. This is a form of permit granted to qualified companies to employ the services of expatriate personnel. The Expatriate Quota is issued by the Federal Ministry of Interior and administered by the Nigerian Immigration Service. The training of Nigerian understudies is a key component of the Expatriate Quota policy.
Companies who do not require the services of full-time expatriate employees may apply for a Temporary Work Permit on a need basis. A Temporary Work Permit is issued for a short duration (2-3 months) to Expatriate Personnel with relevant technical expertise to enable them execute short term assignments like post-purchase installation service, technical and delicate engineering services, and special upskilling training services for local employees. It takes 5 to 10 working days to process a Temporary Work Permit.
Does this process apply equally to all business professionals, regardless of skill standard or net worth, and what particular benefits and services are these business claimants then entitled to from the government?
Professionals with relevant expertise are given priority in the issuance of immigration facilities. This is done with the aim of having qualified Nigerians understudy such Expatriates and acquire the underlining skills, such that it would enable them occupy the positions and job roles for which the expatriates were invited to Nigeria in the future.
However, the Immigration Act 2015 aims to encourage investors who are willing to make a minimum threshold of investment in Nigeria. Such investors would be issued with a Nigerian Residency Permit. This is a deliberate measure to enhance the inflow of Foreign Direct Investment into Nigeria. This is in addition to other tax incentives available to genuine investors in Nigeria.