What is the change? The Nigerian government published new Immigration Regulations this week that overhaul the country’s immigration rules. The new regulations bring into force the provisions of the Nigerian Immigration Act 2015 and aim to bring the country’s immigration system up to date with current geopolitical and socioeconomic issues ranging from border security to global competition for foreign direct investment.

What does the change mean? The Immigration Regulations revise the legal structure for issuance of work permits and impose steep monetary penalties on companies for noncompliance. The main provisions affecting business related immigration will apply to current expatriate employees of Nigerian companies as well as future expatriate employees.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work permits, residence permits.
  • Who is affected: Employers and current and future expatriate employees.
  • Impact on processing times: The new framework is expected to help streamline work permit processing.
  • Business impact: The law imposes significant liability on companies to make sure they and their expatriate work force maintain compliant with the law.

Background: The Immigration Amendment Act 2015 codifies the legal authority of the Comptroller General of Immigration to issue work permits. The publication of the Immigration Regulations means that all previous Nigerian immigration laws are superseded and no longer apply.

By virtue of the new regulations, companies are now required to “show evidence of immigration responsibility or any other security on behalf of an expatriate employee before a resident permit is granted.” This provision puts the onus on employers to make sure their expatriate employees are in full compliance with the laws. If convicted of immigration violations, a company and/or employee will be liable for fines, as summarized below:

  • Companies are liable for approximately US$10,000 for any violation instigated by, or attributed to the neglect of, a company’s director, manager or secretary.
  • A company that fails to renew its expatriate quota on time or to file expatriate monthly returns is liable for approximately US$15,000 in fines. In addition, any company official responsible for such failures is subject to a fine of US$5,000.
  • A foreign employee who changes jobs and does not obtain work permit approval from the new employer before starting work is subject to deportation.
  • A catch-all provision covering violations not specified in the law imposes a fine of about US$5,000 and/or one year of imprisonment.
  • An individual who alters travel documents is liable for a fine of US$10,000 and/or three years of imprisonment.
  • Airlines will be fined US$10,000 for knowingly carrying a passenger who is not in compliance with immigration laws.

BAL Analysis: While the Immigration Regulations do not significantly alter existing work permit procedures, they place a heavy focus on enforcement through corporate liability. Employers should be familiar with the new law and its requirements.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

Copyright © 2017 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact