Immigration Trends in Nigeria: 2020 and Beyond
No doubt, the year 2020 created new challenges for immigration policymakers around the world.
The unprecedented dynamics occasioned by a global pandemic meant that governments had to rethink their immigration policies to protect and curtail the spread of the COVID-19 amongst its citizenries. While some of those policies were seemingly transitional, with many hoping for a quick return to normal times as the pandemic eases off, they have become more or less permanent in some jurisdictions, thus changing travel protocols for the foreseeable future.
This article highlights some of the significant changes in the immigration space recently, (2020 onwards), focusing on Nigeria.
Global Travel Restrictions
The devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic led to global leaders imposing travel restrictions early in 2020. This resulted in total and in some cases, partial travel bans worldwide, with several countries closing their air space to visitors from countries most affected by the pandemic. To contain and curb the spread of the virus, the Nigerian Government also imposed inbound and outbound travel ban between March and September 2020. Since the lifting of the ban, international flights in and out of Nigeria now operate in accordance with the appropriate safety protocols put in place.
As the pandemic continues to wane and travel bans relaxed, global additional travel protocols introduced the wearing of face masks as a travel requirement, COVID-19 PCR tests to rule out infection, undertaking self-isolation /quarantine to curb the spread of the virus. All these protocols must be strictly adhered to before and after travel to control the spread of the virus.
New Visa Policy 2020
On 4th February 2020, the Federal Government announced the new visa policy (NVP) for Nigeria. The introduction of the NVP was aimed at improving ease of doing business in the country, reduce current immigration bottlenecks, improve Nigeria’s bilateral and multilateral relations and, in tandem, boost tourism. Consequently, the NVP expands the visa classes issued by Nigeria from 6 to 79, creating a more robust visa system.
Soon after the announcement of the NVP, the Federal Government introduced a new fee structure for visa processing in Nigeria. The new fee structure was based on a principle of reciprocity with other nations, and a visa fees chart was released on the immigration website detailing fees applicable to 157 charged countries.
A notable added benefit of the NVP is that Nigerians with dual citizenship would no longer require a visa to visit Nigeria, amongst others. The policy also enshrines into law the visa on arrival policy for migrants coming from African Nations.
National Identification Numbers for Nigeria Citizens and Legal Residents
The Government of Nigeria has given life to the policy that requires all citizens and legal residents to register for the National Identification Number (NIN). This is occasioned by a new requirement to link every sim card registered in Nigeria to the NIN issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). By extension, expatriates living in Nigeria are also required to register for the NIN. This new policy aims to sync data from the Nigerian Immigration Service with that of the NIMC to have one unified database for every resident in Nigeria (Nigerian and foreigner alike) at every point in time.
Special Task Force to Monitor Expatriate Quota Violations and Others
In the last quarter of 2020, the Special Ministerial Task Force (STF), charged with the monitoring and enforcement of expatriate quotas and Business Permit etc., commenced its oversight functions. The STF was inaugurated to conduct verification exercises nationwide to ensure compliance with statutory returns as stipulated in the Immigration Regulations. Under its terms of reference, the STF was given 90 days to conclude its assignment, including the audit of documentary requirements presented by all Expatriate Quota applicants for approval /renewal from 2015 to date.
The US Lifts Travel Ban on Nigeria
The new administration of President Joe Biden of the US has recently reversed the travel ban placed on Nigeria and several other countries by the United States government under former President Trump in 2017. The then imposed the travel ban predominantly affected Arab nations, including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, etc. However, in January 2020, the travel ban was extended to Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan, and Myanmar. By implication, Nigerians could no longer obtain resident visas to the US. The American Government noted that the ban had been imposed on Nigeria because the Government failed to share critical security information with the US.
With President Joe Biden now in office, many Nigerians have renewed optimism to migrate to the US.
Malta Government Lifts Ban on Nigerians for Citizenship by Investment
Following the United State’s footsteps, the Maltese Government has also updated its list of nationalities that can apply under its investor program for the “Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services Regulations”. This development is possible as a result of the Executive Order (EO) signed by President Joe Biden soon after he was sworn to office. The EO overturned former President Trump’s travel bans on travelers from 13 countries, including Nigeria. Click here to read our newsletter in this regard.
The year 2020 brought with it life-changing global policies affecting worldwide travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Focusing on Nigeria, it is anticipated that, taken together, the recently introduced immigration-friendly policies will lead to greater ease of doing business and help create a more favourable business environment for Nigeria as a whole.