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Most foreigners, whether going to Nigeria for holiday, on business or relocating there, will need a visa. Some foreign citizens are granted visa-free entry to Nigeria and others are eligible for obtaining a visa on arrival.
Citizens of member-states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and several additional countries are exempt from obtaining a visa; these citizens can enter Nigeria without a visa.
It is also possible to get a visa at the port of entry to Nigeria – depending on nationality and purpose of visit. Nigeria allows those travelling for business purposes and citizens from African Union countries to get a visa on arrival. It is necessary to apply for this first, however, via the Nigerian Immigration Service ePortal and making a payment. Once processed, full immigration clearance may be granted when arriving in the country.
The Nigeria Immigration Service has recently streamlined its system, so visas can only be applied for online through an ePortal, and in-person interviews at the nearest embassy or high commission may be necessary. Expats should always contact the nearest embassy first before submitting any applications online in case there have been changes to visa processes.
Expats should also be sure to check up on the recommended pre-travel vaccinations and what to expect in terms of healthcare in Nigeria.
The four main types of visas for Nigeria are tourist visas, business visas, temporary work permits and subject to regularisation visas.
Tourist visas for Nigeria
It is relatively straightforward to get a tourist visa. Foreigners who wish to travel to Nigeria for tourism or to visit friends or family must apply for this tourist visa, also referred to as a visitor visa.
Tourist and visitor visas are valid for 90 days.
Start the application process by applying online via the ePortal system and making a payment. Fees vary; citizens from developing countries are usually charged lower fees than those from developed countries.
Certain documents may be required to be sent via post or delivered in person to the designated embassy or visa application centre. Applicants generally need to write a letter of introduction and provide their flight and travel itinerary, among additional documents.
When applying, the embassy may contact the applicant for a further interview. Applicants given an in-person interview at the local Nigerian embassy should take along payment receipts from the ePortal system, a valid passport and the required accompanying documents.
Business visas for Nigeria
Applying for a business visa is essentially the same process as applying for a tourist visa for Nigeria. The only difference is the documents required for presentation at the embassy, as expats will need an invitation letter from a business operating in Nigeria.
Business visas are valid for 90 days, which cannot be extended. Expats travelling to Nigeria for short-term business may be eligible for a visa on arrival and should consult the Nigeria Immigration Service website for further guidance.
Work and residence permits for Nigeria
The primary work and residence permits are the temporary work permit and the subject to regularisation visa, which later requires a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card, or CERPAC. ECOWAS citizens can apply for a separate residence card.
Temporary work permit (TWP)
Expats planning on travelling to Nigeria for work purposes and providing their specialised skills should apply for a temporary work permit, also known as a TWP. TWPs are also valid for 90 days.
The applicant must already have coordinated with the corporate body requesting their presence. This organisation must request permission from the Comptroller General of Immigration (CGI) to invite the expat into Nigeria. After the request has been processed, first-time applicants will have to complete the online application on the ePortal and send additional documentation.
When applying for a TWP, we recommend expats communicate with the employing organisation for direct advice.
Subject to regularisation (STR) visa
Expats planning on working in Nigeria or those planning on spending more than three months in the country, must apply for a Subject to Regularisation (STR) entry visa. This includes expat employees and staff of non-governmental organisations and dependants, foreign students and missionaries.
STRs are typically single-entry visas that are valid for 90 days after the point of entry, at which point expats must apply to be regularised. Only after successfully applying for regularisation are expats granted a long-term work and residence permit.
To apply for an STR entry permit, expats need to have confirmed a job with an employer beforehand and that employer must have received expatriate quota approval from the Ministry of the Interior. This is required by the Nigerian government to prevent the indiscriminate employment of expatriates when there are qualified and suitable Nigerians that can fill the positions.
Once this part of the process has been completed, expats can use the ePortal system to pay for and file their application. An interview date at the corresponding embassy will likely then be set, and expats should bring their valid passport and the necessary documents.
Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC)
Expats who have legally entered Nigeria under an STR and who wish to take up employment are required to apply for a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC), which is a combined work and residence permit. The CERPAC is valid for two years and is renewable.
Expats will have to apply to the Nigerian Immigration Service for the CERPAC, with the support of their employing company. An employment contract is required to obtain a CERPAC, which is then tied to that specific job.
ECOWAS residence card
ECOWAS citizens who are residing in Nigeria are eligible for an ECOWAS resident card. These citizens can start the application online and must submit the completed application at a chosen immigration office.
*Visa and work permit requirements can change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
►Nigeria Immigration Service: immigration.gov.ng
►Nigeria Immigration Service ePortal: portal.immigration.gov.ng
►Before starting any application procedure, we recommend contacting the nearest Nigerian embassy
►Applicants can enlist the services of a relocation company for immigration and visa support
"I have a CERPAC which was not difficult to get. I wandered into Immigration and befriended a friendly immigration officer who guided me through the process...it was straightforward. I have been invited to his wedding!" Read more about life in Nigeria in this interview with Ann.
Are you an expat living in Nigeria?
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