Nigerians in Diaspora with Nigerian passports not charged visa fees like foreigners

By Same Egede

Nigerians in the Diaspora who wish to come home to Nigeria travelling with their Nigerian passports are not charged the same as foreigners, checks by this paper have revealed.

Nigerian Times findings indicate that only Nigerians returning to Nigeria but who apply with passports of other countries pay the same fee charged foreigners applying for visa to Nigeria.

They are also required to submit to biometric data enrolment as is the case for all foreign visa applicants – just as other countries ask Nigerians who wish to travel abroad to go through biometric visa enrolment.

Our findings have also revealed that they do not have to pay for visa to travel to Nigeria if they are travelling with Nigerian Passports.

This, according to the relevant authorities in charge of immigration services in Nigeria is aimed at providing a proper background for the recently introduced Nigerian biometric visa issuance in order to clear some misconceptions. Part of these include allegation that it is an exploitative policy targeted at Nigerians in diaspora wishing to visit home.

Interactions with some of the service providers have revealed the impression that the USD 180 charged for visa is being paid to the service provider, is not true as it has been found that it goes directly to the federal Government.

These clarifications, we have found is based on the realization that that a significant number of Nigerians in diaspora have dual citizens, maintaining the citizens of their host country while retaining their Nigerian citizenship.

Further finding has also shown that Nigerians abroad can obtain or renew their Nigerian passport at the same price as that paid by Nigerians in Nigeria. However, Nigerians residing abroad who chose to use their foreign passport to travel to Nigeria, they must then obtain a visa just like every other holder of a foreign passport wishing to travel to Nigeria.

This is not unique to Nigeria, as the same rule that applies with every country that allows its citizens to have dual citizenship.

The biometric visa issuance process was introduced as a means of addressing contemporary migration issues and challenges. Foremost in this regard, is the issue of security within the context of international terrorism as well as internal insurgency problems. By putting in place a biometric visa regime, Governments of issuing countries are able to collect vital biometric information on persons who may pose serious security threats if allowed into their countries, and also take adequate pre-emptive measures to forestall this.

The Nigeria biometric visa issuance is one of the bold steps taken by the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service in order to put in place a world class modern migration management systems.

Nigeria is taking a cue from countries like United State, Australia, United Kingdom and others that have used the procedure to tighten security and increase foreign exchange earning to their countries.

In the case of Nigeria, the whole biometric visa issuance system, including consumables, is financed through 100% private vendor-financed platform. The service provider is responsible for the sourcing of the funds for the building of the system architecture, installation and administration of the biometric visa system. The project has so far consumed hundreds of millions of USD.

In order to assist the service provider to recoup its investments, the Government approved a service charge of 60 British Pounds, which amounts to about 90 USD. It is worthy to note here that 40% of 60 British Pounds is ploughed back to Government under the PPP arrangement.

So far, the company approved by the Federal Government to handle the biometric visa project, Online Integrated Solutions Limited (OIS) has been able to build a world class data centre at the Nigeria Immigration Service Headquarters, Abuja; facilitated access to all relevant Nigerian security agencies for the proper screening and adjudication of potential travellers to Nigeria; aid in the deployment of Regional Servers in Europe, Asia, the middle belt and the Americas, as well as facilitated training of the Immigration Officers in the operations of the biometric visa system, among other advantages.

The biometric data bank would assist the Nigeria Immigration Service and other security agencies to address the strategies to National security posed by terrorism and cross border crimes through intelligence sharing.

It is to the credit of the Federal Government of Nigeria that in this era of dwindling financial resources, it is utilizing the Public Private Partnership platform to undertake essential services that would not only enhance National security but also add value to the economy in the area of ease of doing business and attracting Direct Foreign Investment (DFI).

There is need to make a clarification on visa fees charged under the recently introduced visa regime. If we take the example of United State of America (USA), the visa fees of 180 USA is the statutory visa fee which is charged on reciprocal basis.

That is to say, the United State Government also charges Nigerians wishing to obtain a US visa, USD 180 for the facility. The second clarification is to correct the impression that this USD 180 charged for the visa is being paid to the service provider.

On the contrary, the $180 goes directly to the federal Government. Another misconception which needs to be cleared is that OIS charges each applicant for Nigeria visa in the USA $20 for visa and $12 for passport. For the avoidance of doubt, OIS charges only $90 approved for it by Government and has nothing whatsoever to do with Nigerian passport applications and cannot therefore be accused of charging $12 “for passport”.

On the issues of biometric visa being issued only at six centers in the United States, it should be noted that Government is taking a phased approach towards roll out of the program across the world. Plans are underway to expand and extend OIS services to other cities in the USA and across the world.

Whilst the government is doing its best to facilitate more locations, it is also important we take learning from other countries such as United Kingdom, China, India, United Arab Emirates that have outsourced there Visa application process in our country to limited locations that has become a strategic cost saving measures as well as traffic flow management to the embassies of the countries while providing strategic support to the need of the travelers.