On 8 April 2020, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) issued a circular confirming the approval of the Honourable Minister of Interior for the grant of payment waiver to visitors / migrants affected by the travel ban and the closure of international airports in Nigeria as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further to the circular, all visitors / migrants holding valid visitor’s pass / residence permits with confirmed return ticket and who were scheduled to leave Nigeria within the period of the travel restriction would be granted relevant extensions at no cost. Affected persons are expected to reschedule their flights and travel within a week of the suspension of the restriction. However, the payment waiver does not extend to visitors / migrants whose permits had expired before the travel restriction. Such persons would be required to pay the relevant penalty for the number of days in default before the travel restriction.
The issuance of the waiver by the Federal Ministry of Interior is a welcome development. The waiver will provide relief to affected expatriates who could not exit the country since the imposition of the travel ban, and who may have been concerned about the extension fees and penalties ranging from $400 to $4,000.
The circular provides a general framework which might not have addressed the specific circumstances of all migrants. For instance, it is not clear what form of extension will be granted to migrants who could not renew their expired residence permits within the prescribed 30-day period due to the lockdown, and have no plans to leave the country after the lockdown. Also, there might be other exceptional cases, such as migrants whose residence permits expired during the lockdown and their services are no longer required by their employers.
It is our expectation that the NIS will provide clarifications on how these categories of persons will be treated. This will prevent a situation where when the travel restriction is lifted, the affected expatriates will be required to pay the extension and penalty fees for not renewing their residence permits within the time allowed, or otherwise overstaying in the country against their wish.
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