April 15, 2015

As part of their continued efforts to streamline the immigration process for frequent business travelers, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recently published guidelines for a new visa on arrival process for business travelers and investors. While this process is seen as a positive change overall and allows business travelers the possibility to enter Nigeria without undergoing any sort of consular visa filing, there are several requirements that make this announcement different than other visa on arrival policies seen throughout the world.

Similar to the consular-based business visa process, the visa on arrival requires, among other things, prior approval from the NIS. This approval is obtained by forwarding the standard business visa documentation to the Immigration Service in Abuja. Required supporting documents include, but are not limited to, an invitation letter from a company registered in Nigeria, a support letter from the inviting company indicating acceptance of immigration responsibility for the visitor, a copy of the visitor’s passport biography page, the certificate of incorporation for the inviting company, and payment of the visa fee.

Upon approval the immigration service will issue an approval letter to the inviting company who will need to send the letter to the business traveler ahead of his/her arrival to the Nigerian port of entry. Processing times for the Immigration Service to issue such an approval is 5 business days.

The visa (issued at the port of entry) will be valid for a period of up to 90 days with the possibility of renewal for an additional 90 days.

Companies and business travelers considering this new business visa route should take the following practical points into consideration:

1. The visa on arrival does not allow short-term work. The allowable activities for business visitors remain the same regardless of whether the visa is obtained at the consulate or directly at the port of entry. Allowable business activities in Nigeria are limited to attending trainings, business meetings or discussions, and/or attending seminars or “fact-finding” meetings.

2. The visa on arrival route requires pre-approval from NIS (just as a consular business visa does). As a result, the promise of an expedited process through a visa on arrival is, to some extent, defeated since the pre-approval from the immigration authorities remains a key requirement. However, the visa on arrival option does not require the business traveler to complete a consular filing. Please note, many Nigerian consulates do offer expedited and same-day processing of business visa applications for additional visa fees.

3. A number of business travelers have been refused entry into Nigeria when applying to the visa on arrival program for any number of reasons. Thus, the consular-based visa application is considered the more secure route.

All in all, both processes have similar timelines and require the same set of documents and prerequisites. While the visa on arrival route does not require that the business traveler file an application with the consulate, Pro-Link GLOBAL does recommend that, whenever possible, companies pursue the consular visa route to ensure that their business traveler does not get denied entry at the Nigerian border.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification.

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