A country’s immigration policy is part of a nation’s wholistic policy framework to enhance or endanger economic activities. To compliment Nigerian government’s efforts on the Ease of Doing Business, Nigeria Immigration Service launched the Nigerian Visa Policy (NVP) 2020.
President Buhari in his forward to the policy book stated, “the Nigeria visa policy 2020 will support the attainment of a globally competitive economy for Nigeria by building on the efforts of the Presidential Enabling Business environment, attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and boost tourism without compromising security.”
Recently, however, the Minister for Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, as his parting gift said, “Nigerians in diaspora with dual citizenship do not need visas to come home.” But in his preface to the NVP 2020 document, he wrote, “the NVP 2020 introduces special visas for diaspora Nigerians by birth with dual citizenship to enable them make use of the passports of other nationalities to visit Nigeria. I therefore encourage them to respect the provisions of the laws of their new country as well as those of Nigeria”.
The visa code for the above immigrants is F9A. The visa requirements are: • Evidence of Registration with Nigerian Embassy • Passport valid for at least 6 months with at least 2 blank visa pages for endorsement • Return ticket • Evidence of sufficient fund • Evidence of hotel Reservation/ host address in Nigeria (NVP 2020, P.35). Further conditions include: duration of 90 days for single entry, not permitted for employment, interchangeable use of passports is not allowed for single returning journey, and a host of others.
The Minister and NIS have to make further clarification on the public pronouncement as it is capable of causing confusion, clashes between Nigerians in diaspora and Immigration Attaches at the Missions and officials at the Entry points.
The Minister acknowledged the requirements for entry visa and enjoined dual citizenship holders to respect the immigration laws of their new countries and those of Nigeria, which require by international best practices that they depart their new countries with visas of countries of their destinations, where no visa waivers or abolition apply.
Will it be correct then to say that F9A visa is suspended or cancelled? What this means is, a holder of an American passport should present same to American Immigration officials on departure and to Nigerian Immigration officers on arrival. The practice globally is that a person (migrant) is accorded the citizenship of the travel documents presented at the border/ entry point. How feasible is it to avoid interchange of passports?
Nigeria Immigration officers have been very discretionary in the admittance and clearance of Nigerians with dual citizenship, notwithstanding the abuse by unscrupulous ones, but this statement from the Minister will cause more confusion as earlier stated, as migrants will feel entitled against the provisions of the act.
Rather than this confusion, the Ministry should address one of the urgent needs of Nigerians in diaspora which is the reduction of hurdles their spouses go through to acquire Nigerian citizenship and the nation’s passports. The process is cumbersome unlike in most other countries.
Doing this will contribute to stability and confidence in their homes, as well as increase mobility and creation of wealth. Currently, such people are on indefinite Residence permits, multiple entry visa, with a proviso “not valid for employment”. (See visa code N1A, NVP 2020, p.72).
The indefinite residence permit does not, therefore, make much sense as such spouses are confined to being dependents, otherwise, they become public charge.
Charles Okafor, Ph.D., fsi, Pcc+ is an Immigration expert.