Steps to employ expatriate labour in Nigeria

Steps to employ expatriate labour in Nigeria

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Though it has been cancelled, many people still don’t understand what the Expatriate Employment Levy (EEL), means. EEL is a levy imposed by government on companies hiring foreigners, usually expatriates, to work in Nigeria.

It stipulates that every company in Nigeria that has foreign directors will be charged the sum of $15,000 annually per director and $10,000 for other foreign staff of the company, per staff. However, not all foreign employees would be affected, staff of diplomatic missions and government officials in Nigeria are exempted from this requirement.

This policy was initially due to take effect from March 15, 2024 with a compliance deadline of April 15, 2024. And failure to comply with the policy attracts a fine of N3, 000,000

Globally, expatriate policies are designed to foster the exchange of skills and knowledge from expatriates to local employees and to protect the local labour market. Nigeria is not exempted from this. But there have been policies over the years aimed at achieving this very goal without unnecessarily belaboring the expatriates or the companies hiring them.

The existing process is that any company in Nigeria seeking to employ a foreigner must get the consent and approval of the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). And it follows three steps:

Expatriate Quota (EQ) – The company  obtains an expatriate quota from the Ministry of Interior indicating the number of expatriates that the ministry allots to each company that wishes to employ expatriates as staff.

Subject to Regularisation Visa (STR Visa): After getting expatriate quota, the company can apply to the Nigerian embassy situated in the resident country of the expatriate for a “Subject to Regularisation Visa (STR).” The STR Visa is valid for 90 days only and it is granted temporarily pending the regularisation of the expatriate’s status.

Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC) Or Temporary Work Permit (TWP) – A CERPAC must be obtained by an expatriate who plans to live and work in Nigeria for a period of time longer than 56 days. It’s like a work or resident permit needed for any foreigner to lawfully reside or work in Nigeria, except citizens of ECOWAS member states. Where an expatriate has no intention of working in Nigeria on a long term basis, the company may apply for a Temporary Work Visa instead which is usually granted for three months and can be extended for an additional six months.

If the current policy is followed then there seems to be a process that ensures local jobs are protected with time bound permits and mandatory training for Nigerians.

It is time noted that the EEL levy is not unique or peculiar to Nigeria, in many other countries, there are annual levies charged on companies for their expatriate employees. In the UK, it is called the Immigration Skills charge, payable annually by employers hiring senior level foreign staff to work in the UK. A similar charge exists in other countries like Singapore and Malaysia.

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