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29 April 2020
While the global COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is important to outline the potential impact of the pandemic on immigration permits as employers apply to expatriate workers in Nigeria. Immigration permits are usually tied to an expatriate's period of engagement at a company. Thus, immigration permits are time-bound and for a definite period. For example, the combined expatriate residence permit and alien card (CERPAC) is granted for one year, subject to renewal.
One key question remains: if the lockdown is extended for several months beyond the initial 14-day period,(1) will it be necessary to extend the tenure of the expatriate quota to cover the lockdown period in affected states?
On the one hand, it may be argued that immigration permits such as temporary work permits and CERPACs which have already been issued to expatriates are unaffected due to the fact that such expatriate employees are still required to work remotely from home as required by their employers and, as such, the tenure of such permits ought to be unaffected.
On the other hand, it may also be argued that expatriates who have been engaged due to their specific technical expertise and are thereby unable to undertake the terms of their employment due to the lockdown may need to be granted a corresponding extension of their CERPAC as opposed to having their employers undertake additional expenses for CERPAC renewals, which would be avoided if they are granted an extension to cover for the lockdown period.
The issue of immigration permits will likely be a major talking point which many countries that issue work permits and visas will need to consider as part of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on labour law. The Nigerian Immigration Service should also consider extending the CERPACs of expatriate employees to cover the period lost as a result of the lockdown (if the lockdown goes on for several months). This would provide relief to both employers of expatriates and expatriates themselves.
For further information on this topic please contact Adekunle Obebe, Bolaji Fasehun or Solomon Oshinubi at Bloomfield Law by telephone (+234 1 454 2130) or email (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Bloomfield Law website can be accessed at www.bloomfield-law.com.
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