The employment of expatriates in Nigeria is a relevant and critical topic while considering an investment in Nigeria or starting a new company that will require a foreign expertise and transfer of knowledge.

Most recently, Nigeria has been a target of large-scale investments owing majorly to her large population (estimated at over 180 million). Nigeria is currently experiencing the influx of foreign companies and workers, due to her friendly investment climate, making Nigeria a destination of choice for foreign entities and foreign workers. However, it is common for foreign own companies to employ the services of international experts commonly referred to as expatriates to offer the required services at the commencement of operation of the company. Employment of expatriates usually takes place where a foreigner, usually a migrant worker in his profession takes position outside his home country either independently or as a work assignment scheduled by the employer, which may be a company, government or non-governmental organization.

Two Major Requirements/Conditions for Employing Foreigners

*Expatriate quota to be obtained by the company (Employer)

*Combined Expatriates Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC) to be obtained by the foreigner (Employee)

Expatriates Quota

The Nigerian Immigration Act Cap 17, Laws of Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and the Immigration Regulations made thereunder contains provisions for the employment of expatriates in Nigeria. Section 8 of the Immigration Act provides that any foreigner seeking employment or work permit in Nigeria must obtain the consent of the Comptroller General of Immigration. This consent is issued in form of an Expatriate Quota (EQ).

The EQ is a document that permits companies to employ expatriates to specifically approved job designations and also specifies the period of such employment. It is a form of approval granted to companies and registered firms to employ the services of expatriates with required skills and ability, with a view to training Nigerians understudying and transferring of the requisite skills during the period of employment.

An EQ states the permitted number of foreigners to be employed by business organizations operating or wishing to operate in Nigeria. The EQ scheme is designed to prevent the unguided recruitment of expatriates where there are qualified Nigerians to fill those positions. Thus, the EQ is issued to the company, not the expatriate. When the expatriate leaves the company the position reverts to the company and the company may place another expatriate in the same position for as long as the quota position remains valid.

Procedure for Acquiring an Expatriate Quota

1) Any company that desires to obtain an expatriate quota, is required to submit an application to that effect to the Federal Ministry of Interiors Affairs on the Form designed for that purpose.

2) The application shall be accompanied by the following document;

  • The Licence/Permit or Certificate from relevant government agencies.
  • Company’s Current Tax Clearance Certificate
  • Lease Agreement or Certificate of Occupancy in respect of business premises
  • The Feasibility Study Report
  • Incorporation/Registration Documents i.e Memorandum and Article of Association
  • Business Permit (not applicable to companies with 100% indigenous ownership)
  • Evidence of work at hand, its duration and value attached to the contract.
  • Evidence of Imported Machinery
  • Proposed annual salaries to be paid to the expatriates to be recruited.
  • Joint Venture Agreement for Partnership between Nigerians and foreigners.
  • Bank Reference Letter
  • Letter of No-objection from the Nigerian Content Monitoring Board for companies operating in the oil and gas sector.

Combined Expatriates Residence Permit and Aliens Permit (CERPAC)

Furthermore, it is worthy to note that before any expatriate can be granted access to work in Nigeria, he/she must acquire the Combined Expatriates Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC). The CERPAC Green Card is a bonafide document that allows a non-Nigerian to reside in Nigeria and carry out an approved activity as specified in the permit or to accompany a resident of Nigeria as a dependant. The validity of the card is for two years after which application for revalidation/renewal must be made.

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) is the government agency in charge of issuing and renewing CERPAC in Nigeria; however, they carry out the duties hand in hand with the Minister of Interiors.

Procedure and Requirements for Obtaining CERPAC

  1. Application to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) for the CERPAC
  2. Expatriate quota approval
  3. International passport with a subject to regularization (STR) visa endorsement
  4. A duly completed CERPAC statutory form
  5. An STR package containing STR documentation received from the Nigerian embassy/consulate
  6. Company’s board of directors resolution
  7. Application letter from the employer requesting Regularisation of stay and accepting immigration responsibility on behalf of the expatriate.
  8. Letter of Appointment/Employment
  9. Acceptance of the offer of Appointment/Employment
  10. Payment of prescribed fees

The application for CERPAC in Nigeria must have been preceded by application and approval of expatriate quota from a company employing the expatriate. It is subject to renewal every two years. Thus, the EQ is for companies intending to employ expatriates while CERPAC is for the expatriate permitting him to reside and work in Nigeria.

Taxation of Expatriates

It is also important to briefly discuss in this write up the taxation of the expatriates that have been legitimately and legally engaged in Nigeria. Nigerian Personal Income Tax Act (PITA) regulates taxation in Nigeria, although there are no specific provisions in the PITA dedicated to the taxation of expatriates.

However, the statutory provisions as they relate to individuals who derive income from Nigeria or are deemed resident in Nigeria also apply to both local and expatriate employees in Nigeria. Therefore, expatriates who have a permanent residence permit in Nigeria are liable to tax in Nigeria even if they spend less than 183 days in here.

In conclusion, the Minister of Interiors and the Nigerian Immigration Service generally have the responsibility of administering and enforcing the provisions of the Immigration Act, which relates to employment of expatriates. Thus, any enterprise desirous of employing expatriates is to apply for and acquire the expatriate quota while the foreigner desirous of working and residing in Nigeria is to obtain a CERPAC Green Card which serves as a resident and work permit, which is renewable every two years.

By Immigration Law Department at Resolution Law Firm


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