On February 4, 2020, the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced a new Visa Policy (“VP”) which aims at transforming the Visa application and issuance process and providing better access to foreign investors, tourists and other persons visiting Nigeria for legitimate purposes.
The VP also seeks to promote the agenda of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council tasked with driving foreign investment into Nigeria and ultimately improving the Nigerian business environment.
Some major highlights of the VP are discussed below.
1. Expansion of Visa Classes. The VP increases existing classes of visas from 6 to 79 and categorizes them into 3 namely:
a. Short Visit Visas: This category of visas allows foreigners to visit Nigeria for a period 3 months for tourism, meetings and other business purposes. It also applies to journalists, artists, clerics and professionals requiring short visits to perform their specific tasks in Nigeria.
b. Temporary Residence Visas: This category of visas applies to individuals who wish to reside in Nigeria for employment, studies, amongst others.
c. Permanent Residence Visas: This category of visas is applicable to foreign investors who are willing to live, work and invest from $250,000 to $100 million in Nigeria, depending on the class of Visa. It also applies to spouses and dependents of Nigerian citizens, and individuals who possess skills that are not locally available. Note that this category does not confer an automatic right to work in Nigeria.
2. Application Channels and Procedure. The policy also provides for the channels through which foreigners and tourists can apply for Nigerian Visas namely:
a. Visa on Arrival: The new policy mandates the Nigerian Immigration Service to issue visas on arrival to tourists and visitors from African Union countries and Nigerians holding passports of other countries as a result of naturalization, at the port of entry (excluding land borders) upon producing their international passports, evidence of hotel accommodation or letters of invitation and return tickets.
b. Electronic Visa: This channel allows intending visitors and tourists to apply for Visas online and obtain pre-approval permit if they meet the requirements, before entering Nigeria. This is a welcome development for tourists and visitors who reside in countries where Nigeria does not have embassies and missions.
c. Visas at Nigerian Embassies/Missions or Visa Application Centres: Through this channel, visa applications are processed at the Nigerian embassies or designated centres and issued here upon approval.
3. Implementation. To aid the implementation of the VP, the Federal Government has also set up the International Civil Aviation Organization Public Key Directory (ICAO-PKD) Global Platform (a central repository for exchanging the information required to authenticate e-Passports) at all International Airports in Nigeria to facilitate the authentication of travel documents. This will enable a seamless and efficient clearance system at the International Airports in the country.
Furthermore, this reduces the chances of criminals beating the immigration system.
The VP is a welcome development as it is expected to improve the Nigerian business environment and if properly implemented, it will attract foreign direct investment and boost tourism without compromising national security.