Preparation meets opportunity – corporate immigration considerations during a pandemic.
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Life as we know it has been turned upside down since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, better known as Covid-19. Its impact has been global and no one has been immune to its power and control. Business has been affected greatly and any plans to expand or target new territories have been put on hold until further notice. However, in amongst the chaos lies opportunity. Opportunity to reset, refocus and restart.
For those businesses or organisations that were planning to enter a new market or location, now may be the time to plan and prepare even more precisely. Apart from establishing and defining business goals and objectives for a new location, adequate consideration and planning needs to be factored in when relocating identified talent to a new location in order to ensure compliance and due diligence has successfully been met. This is particularly pertinent from an immigration perspective as often this element has been forgotten and can add major delays to deploying talent to a specific host location.
Identified talent should not be limited to talent outside the African continent. There is a rich talent pool that exists within Africa. Concerted efforts to seek talent within the African continent are becoming more favourable in order to enhance the deployment of intra-African skills and bridge gaps in the market place.
Not all country immigration practices and processes are straight forward as there may be prerequisite steps to be achieved before applying for the appropriate work authorization for identified talent to start working in the host country.
An example of this is related to Nigeria. Nigeria still remains a very popular emerging market with ever expanding manufacturing, financial, service, communications, technology and entertainment sectors. For any business or organisation wishing to send identified talent to work in Nigeria on a temporary or long term basis, there are strict and defined immigration compliance requirements that need to be achieved beforehand. This would be in relation to securing an Expatriate Quota.
Once a Company has successfully been registered in Nigeria, the process for applying for an Expatriate Quota commences. An Expatriate Quota is a permit issued by the Federal Ministry of Interior (FMI) in Nigeria permitting a Company to employ non-Nigerian workers where the Company’s workforce needs so requires.
The Expatriate Quota is submitted to the FMI in order to motivate and justify the need for non-Nigerian workers. It sets out the specific roles, the number of resources associated to each role as part of the motivation as well as the specified period of validity attached to each role. Upon successful approval of the Expatriate Quota by the FMI, the Company may employ expatriates to fill specifically approved roles in alignment with the specified period of validity subject to the conditions of the Expatriate Quota.
An Expatriate Quota ordinarily has a validity of 2-3 years subject to the discretion of the Honourable Minister of Interior and subject to renewal upon expiry. The Quota is issued to the company and not the expatriate. When an expatriate exits a company, the role is the company’s responsibility and another expatriate may be placed in the same position by the company subject to the Expatriate Quota position remaining valid.
There are 2 types of Expatriate Quota’s namely the Permanent Until Reviewed (PUR) Quota and the Temporary Quota. The PUR Quota is granted under specific conditions allowing identified employees to work in Nigeria on a permanent basis. Alternatively, the Temporary Quota is designed for positions that will be occupied on a temporary basis. A Company may renew their Expatriate Quota for further periods of 2 years each subject to a maximum of 10 years subject to ensuring within which time the relevant skills applicable in the position(s) have been transferred to qualified local understudies in Nigeria.
Apart from securing an approved Expatriate Quota from the FMI, there is an additional compliance requirement that would need to be fulfilled during the validity of the Expatriate Quota on a monthly basis as set out by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS). This is known as the Expatriate Quota Monthly Returns. Each company who possesses an approved Expatriate Quota is required to submit a monthly return to the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs and the NIS.
The monthly return should confirm and demonstrate the names of the expatriates assigned to approved positions with emphasis placed on the employment of local understudies in Nigeria to the expatriates for the purpose of training them during their assignment. The primary objective and outcome of the Expatriate Quota is to promote and enable the local understudies in Nigeria to acquire relevant skills for the eventual take-over of the Expatriate Quota positions. This is to enhance and promote localisation by bridging the gap in upskilling local nationals to take up employment of hard to fill roles or expertise gaps.
With the current pandemic still dominating and disrupting business continuity, many immigration services have been put on hold or resuming limited operations. It is therefore advisable to use the time to keep up to date with the any official communication from consular missions in order to trust the information and align it to business planning.
Therefore, the following considerations should be noted in terms of corporate immigration when seeking to enter a new market(s) or location(s):
· Consider and research host country business registration and immigration requirements and processes at the early stages of planning to factor in timelines and processing times.
· Ensure compliance and due diligence requirements have been fully investigated to avoid any oversights and delays to implementation of business set up and the mobility of expert workforce for a new country or region.
· Identify and seek to mobilize talent from other African countries, where possible, in order to enhance and promote the deployment of intra-African skills where there are gaps in the market.
· Corporate immigration in most instances will need to be managed by an external expert such as an immigration service provider.
· Seek and research partnering with a reputable and reliable immigration service provider to ensure efficient and professional management of immigration services.
· Ensure that your company and workforce understand and operate in a compliant manner in terms of immigration to avoid unnecessary penalties or blacklisting.
Life will resume back to normal, but a new normal. Tighter measures and requirements will be in place and expected from all of us going forward. Use the time to refine business intelligence in order to maximize effective and compliant business operations.
Renzo is a global mobility expert having led the marketing and business development efforts at a globally recognized immigration consultancy firm.
Schedule a one on one video consulting call with Renzo here.
Pengo Insight is a leading knowledge marketplace company in Africa. On our insights blog, we enable our expert advisors to share their insights and opinions on various topics within their expertise and domains. The views expressed by our expert advisors as contributors to our insights blog do not necessarily reflect the views of Pengo Insight. We encourage constructive dialogue and diversity of opinion as we believe these are important aspects of the learning process.