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The new visa policy is focused on African Unity and strives to create a medium for Africans traveling to Nigeria to do so with ease. The wake of the Nigerian people to the New Visa policy as announced by President Muhammadu Buhari on February 4, 2020 is that African visitors would apply online and upon arrival into the country, would be issued a Visa at the airport.
OPEN VISA ACCESS OVER VIEW
The essence of Countries adopting visa openness is to make it easy for Visitors to travel into the country.
A visa-open country is a liberal or relaxed visa policy for travelers/ visitors who either do not need a visa when they enter or can get a visa on arrival. This is easier than a visa-restrictive country which requires visitors to get a visa from an Embassy before they travel.
It is an interesting fact that Passports and visas became necessary to use as travel documents only after World War 1, and while 51% of the African continent has embraced open visa Access, 26% from the 51% offer visas on arrival while the remaining 25% do not require prior visas from African travelers.
Let’s start with what we know about the New Visa policy.
The backdrop of this policy is a historic one as it is intended to integrate Africa with regional policy. President Muhammadu Buhari announced this while attending a peace and Development Summit in Egypt and this announcement came into limelight in a bid to honour the trade agreement which was agreed by the Head of States and Government of African countries at the African Union’s (AU) 18th Ordinary Session in January 2012, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Its purpose remains to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) with a sole purpose of Uniting Africa with a free movement and easy trading system within Africa.
There are 3 visa categories with the new policy:
a. Short visit: A short stay is apportioned i.e90 days, which is endorsed on documents for ECOWAS citizen. It also favours certain people(Journalists, Clerics, Sportspeople, Artists/Entertainers/Musicians, Religious Tourists, Humanitarian Workers, etc)?
b. Temporary: It is longer than 90 days, but these are mostly applied by business travelers.
c. Permanent residence: This would mean intending applicants have to go to the Nigerian embassy to get a visa.
Likewise, with respect to the influx of foreigners in Nigeria, the order of priorities to allow foreigners to stay in Nigeria are:
1. ECOWAS Citizens (first class)
2. African Citizens with passport
3. Frequent Business Travelers
4. Foreigners who want to take residence
HOW IS THE NEW POLICY EXPECTED TO WORK?
• The New Visa Policy 2020 is processed online. Applicants are to log on to the National Immigration Service portal and pay for the processing online. https://portal.immigration.gov.ng/pages/visaguidelines
• An approval of confirmation i.e an approval letter would be sent to the person’s email within 48hrs (2 working days).
• Applicant should not proceed to Nigeria until receipt of ‘Visa on Arrival Approval Letter’, because a successful online payment for processing does not mean approval of Visa.
• The Application Letter is addressed to The Comptroller General of Immigration, NIS HQ, Abuja.
• Upon arrival into Port of Entry in Nigeria, the Applicant is to proceed for biometric enrolment , visa issuance and Immigration Clearance.
The purport of the visa policy is to improve African Integration, which is achievable only by air flights. Consequently, the actualization of its objectives is circumvented by the closed borders which remain so in an attempt to prevent smuggling into the Country. One of the pertinent questions that need to be addressed is if the policy would bend its rules on instances of unforeseen challenges that will require a visa before arrival, technological challenges, or emergency situations when a person has a true intention to come to Nigeria but is refused by the system. Would the system bend its rules to allow room for exceptions?
The writer opines that the new visa policy’s procedure is still relatively tedious and protracted. The obvious advantage is the fact that it can be done online from the comfort of your own home without necessitating physical appearance at the Embassy. So once again I ask, the new visa policy: a crap or cap to the Nigerian foreign policy? Your opinions are welcome.