Learning to Travel with COVID-19: KPMG Advises Businesses on Immigration Procedures
So many businesses have significant operations that require diverse partners to travel into Nigeria to carry out, from manufacturing plants that depend on foreign engineers to service or repair critical machinery to information technology or real estate firms who need to conclude financing deals. These businesses are getting prepared to welcome foreign partners, consultants, engineers, etc. as Nigeria gets ready to open up its airspace to international flights on 21st of June 2020. But it’s not going to be business as usual. There are many procedures that the Nigerian authorities have put in place to curtail the spread of the coronavirus through air travel. KPMG on June 4, 2020 organized a webinar, Impact of COVID-19 on Immigration Matters, to enlighten businesses that would soon be welcoming foreigners or renewing residence permits for expatriates on the relevant immigration procedures. The webinar, conducted by Adenike Yomi-Faseun, Associate Director and Group Head for KPMG People Services, explained the procedures guiding foreign nationals working in or travelling to do business in Nigeria. The rules are important for airlines as for businesses preparing to welcome visitors who have to know what to plan for and how to avoid surprises and disruptions of their plans.
All arriving expatriates and business visitors traveling into Nigeria will have to deposit their passports with the Nigerian Immigration Service. The passports will only be released after they have undergone mandatory 14-day quarantines. The self-isolation measures are expected to be overseen and handled by the expatriates’ individual companies. This is to ensure that foreigners who travel to work or do business in Nigeria are free of the new coronavirus before they are allowed to move freely and mingle with people.
The Nigerian Immigration Service will start to process new residence permits for expatriates as well as renew old ones. The renewal of residence permits costs $2,000 per expatriate. Applications have to be completed by companies rather than expatriates. Expatriates are expected to get their permits within 30 days. There is likely to be a surge in the number of companies applying for expatriate permits so companies should plan ahead and apply as early as possible. They should make sure they finance their applications immediately or well ahead of the deadline for payment.
Failure to renew residence permits within the stipulated time will attract a penalty in accordance with the Section 57 (5) of the 2015 Act: imprisonment for a terms of 3 years, a fine of N500,000, or both.
Expatriates Sacked During Lockdown
The economic strains the coronavirus put on a lot of businesses meant that a significant part of the workforce had to be laid off. To avoid taking on extra tax and immigration responsibilities for expatriates who have had to leave their employment, corporations have been directed to state on the affidavit which would accompany their deletion requests that departure tickets were not available during the lockdown. The letter of termination of appointment containing details such as the last day of employment should also accompany the request. Failure to comply with this requirement would expose the company to tax liabilities and risk of “expatriate quota over-placement”. Expatriates who are no longer attached to any company are covered by the government’s grant of payment waiver to visitors or migrants affected by closure of airports.
The prompt submission of monthly reports on expatriates staffing to the Nigerian Immigration Services has become even more important given the healthcare implications of adequate monitoring has now assumed. Failure to file monthly returns could result in a fine of N3 million.
Company Health Policy
Apart from overseeing their foreign employees’ quarantine, companies are expected to play a significant role in curbing the spread of the virus. They are expected to review their travel policies and health emergency response plans. To ensure these policies are relevant to practical situations, they are advised to undergo simulations which would put these policies to test. Upon arrival into the country, expatriate employees must be questioned by the employer-companies to obtain knowledge of recent travel history. Every company is expected to keep an Expatriate Movement Record. Protocol officers who meet with the expatriates at the point of entry are expected to follow the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s guidelines.
The resumption of flights into Nigeria will provide some relief to the country’s aviation sector which has lost N20 billion every month since the Nigerian airspace was closed.