Immigration Act imposes new work permit rules, higher penalties for non-compliance

2 Jun 15

NIGERIA

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Nigeria’s Immigration Amendment Act, passed last week, revises the legal structure for issuance of work permits and imposes steep monetary penalties on companies for non-compliance.

What does the change mean? Companies hiring foreign workers may benefit from clearer rules but also have greater responsibilities to comply with all rules regarding work permits, expatriate quotas, timely renewals and monthly reporting.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work permits, residence permits.
  • Who is affected: Employers and expatriate employees.
  • Impact on processing times: The new framework may help streamline work permit processing.
  • Business impact: The law imposes significant liability on companies to make sure they and their expatriate work force maintain compliance with the law. Companies face fines of up to US$15,000 for violations, such as failing to renew work permits or expatriate quotas in a timely manner.
  • Next steps: Employers should be familiar with the new law and its requirements and may wish to contact their BAL representative for assistance.

Background: The Immigration Amendment Act 2015 was signed into law May 25 by outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan. It codifies the legal authority of the Comptroller General of Immigration to issue work permits.

Under the act, companies are 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. While “any other security” is not defined, it is being interpreted to mean that Nigeria may require employers to pay a guarantee to sponsor some work or resident permits.

If convicted of immigration violations, a company and/or employee will be liable for fines. Here is a summary of penalties:

  • 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 quotas on time or to file expatriate monthly returns is liable for approximately US$15,000 in fines. In addition, an individual company official responsible for the filings 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 law does not significantly alter existing work permit procedures, it contains several important changes to the current regime, with a heavy focus on enforcement through corporate liability.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Nigeria. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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