Published on September 4, 2015
The Immigration Act 2015 seeks to strengthen the capacity of the Nigeria Immigration Service ”NIS” to secure the country’s porous, expansive and extensive borders and tackle migration related problems including smuggling of migrants.The repealed Immigration Act 1963 had become obsolete and therefore, unable to meet the demands of modern migration management, the 1963 Act did not contemplate certain immigration activities and offences as we have in modern times.
Key changes in the new Legislation
The Act makes provision for a specialized competent court at various ports of entries to address Immigration related offences known as the Immigration court. The Act further provides that where an offence is committed, the offender may be remanded in custody for a period not exceeding twenty one (21 days) at the first instance and thereafter, as occasion may demand. However, the total period on remand must not exceed three months (90 days).
Prior to the signing of the legislation – Immigration offences were the exclusive preserve of the Federal High Court in Nigeria – With the creation of specialized courts, offences will be adjudicated upon in good time.
The Act empowers the Comptroller General of Immigration “CGI” where the need arises to request for a bond sum to be deposited before granting approval for a resident permit application. Where the CGI exercises the discretion to issues a residence permit to a foreigner, should the need arise for deportation for any offences, the bond sum will be useful in that regard.
The various types of work permits (Temporary Work Permit and CERPAC) which hitherto used to be contained in subsidiary regulations, have now been captured by the new legislation. The CGI has been given full powers to approve both the Temporary Work Permit and CERPAC for foreign Nationals desirous of working in Nigeria.
Mandatory Compliance Directive under the New “Act”
• The Act makes it mandatory for employed persons who are changing employment in-country to obtain the approval of the CGI. Failure to do so, upon conviction may lead to deportation of the employer. The Act is silent on imprisonment of the offender; however it empowers the CGI to exercise the discretionary power of deporting offenders.
• The Act makes it mandatory for employed persons who are changing employment in-country to obtain the approval of the CGI. Failure to do so, upon conviction may lead to deportation of the employer.The Act is silent on imprisonment of the offender; it however empowers the CGI to exercise the discretionary power of deporting offenders.
• The Act has a general offences provision which states that where a person is guilty of an offence and no specific punishment is provided for, the person shall be liable on conviction to a fine of five thousand dollars or a term of One year imprisonment or both.
Companies and Foreign Nationals are to ensure that they have in place a compliance checklist in view of the provisions of the new Act which provides for strict penalties for violations and or offences.
Work permits and regulatory approvals must be renewed ahead of due date and companies as a matter of policy must ensure that expatriate employees have the requisite and appropriate work permit.
The immediate past President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, signed the pending Immigration Bill into law on the 25th day of May, 2015.