Nigerians in Diaspora do not pay for visa to travel to Nigeria except …
They are also required to submit to biometric data enrollment 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 enrollment.
This is also based on the fact that a significant number of Nigerians in diaspora are dual citizens – they are citizens of the country where they reside while retaining their Nigerian citizenship also.
It is very important to note that any Nigerian who resides abroad who wishes to come home can obtain or renew a Nigerian passport at the same relative price as that paid by Nigerians in Nigeria. But if the Nigerian residing abroad chooses 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. This is the same rule that applies with every country that allows its citizens to have dual citizenship.
This response is aimed at providing a proper background into the recently introduced Nigerian biometric visa issuance in order to clear some misconceptions such as that which alleges that it is an exploitative policy targeted at Nigerians in diaspora wishing to “come home” for a visit.
It is imperative to highlight the need for the introduction of biometric processes in the visa issuance process 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 preemptive 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.
In other part of the world where the biometric visa system has been put in place, the whole process had been solely financed by the host Governments of such countries.
Since 2004, the US-VISIT programme of the Department of Homeland security (the program that fingerprints and photographs of most visitors to the US) has spent USD 300 million a year since 2004 which amounts to 4.5 billion as at 2017.
Another similar case of a Government singularly bank rolling the migration to biometric visa issuance system is that of Australia.
For fiscal year 2017, Australia Department of Immigration and Border protection was allocated 46million over four years to enhance biometric capability at borders. This does not include the cost of building and deploying the systems.
The United Kingdom Government has also invested hundreds of millions of pounds to build and deploy its biometric visa issuance system.
The Japan’s government is pursuing facial biometric technology for its border security. in its latest budget, the country’s justice ministry is looking to get about 2.69 million in funding for such a system to be implemented at its national airport
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 this 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 establish the following:
The building of a world class data center at the Nigeria Immigration Service Headquarters, Abuja. All biometric data from the enrollment centers are processed and stored at this Data Center located at the Nigerian Immigration Service Headquarters in Abuja. This center also houses the Central Matching System and the Africa Regional Server.
To meet Nigeria’s Homeland Security requirements, the biometric visa platform provides access to all relevant Nigerian security agencies for the proper screening and adjudication of potential travelers to Nigeria.
ii) Deployment of Regional Servers in Europe, Asia, the middle belt and the Americas.
iii) Training of the Immigration Officers in the operations of the biometric visa system.
iv) Deployment of biometric visa issuance systems in the United Kingdom, USA, China, UAE, India and South Africa during the pilot phase; this would be gradually extended to cover other countries.
v) Deployment of biometric visa verification systems at Nigeria’s International Airports.
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.
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