… increases passport reforms with Diaspora fast track service
Nigerians with expired international passports who are returning home can now put their mind at rest as the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has pulled the support of diplomatic and aviation authorities to allow them board at their respective countries of residence as well as enter into Nigeria without any inhibition.
This is even as the NIS has increased the number of implemented reforms, the latest being the launch of Diaspora fast track special service that enables the Service to respond urgently to the special needs of Nigerians who live abroad and coming back to the country.
Public Relations Officer of the NIS, Anthony N. Akuneme, said the Comptroller General of Immigration, Isah Jere Idris, had written to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, all Heads of Foreign Missions, all Immigration Attaches, all Airport Comptrollers and all airlines – local and international to convey Federal Government’s approval to the aforementioned to facilitate passages for Nigerians living in foreign countries whose passports have expired, to return to the country unhindered.
The CGI in a circular referenced NIS/CHI/FD/208/20 and dated 9th December, 2022, signed on his behalf by the Special Assistant to the CGI (Foreign Desk), B.M. Lawal, a Deputy Comptroller of Immigration, read thus: ‘‘I am directed to respectively present the compliments of the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service and notify all relevant authorities that the Federal Government of Nigeria has approved that Nigerians returning home can be admitted into the country with their expired Nigerian passports.
‘‘Consequently, all airlines are requested to allow holders of expired Nigerian passports to board without let or hindrance. ‘‘In addition, all Nigerian Diplomatic Missions abroad are kindly requested to circulate this information to airline operators and border authorities of host countries for their necessary action.’’
Giving further details on the series of reforms in the passport and immigration sector, Akuneme said the special fast track service for Nigerians in the Diaspora entailed the setting up of Diaspora Desks at all the international airports in the country for the exclusive use of returnee Nigerians to renew their expired Nigerian international passports and access any other immigration services without any stress upon their arrival in the country.
He said the dedicated service was already ongoing and it would be available from 12th of December 2022 to 31st of January 2023, adding that it was part of the confidence-building mechanism put in place by the Federal Government to ensure that citizens who were willing to return to the country were not denied their right to travel. Nigerians can complete the diaspora fast track passport renewal through 3 steps: First is to register online through the passport application portal at https://www.passport.immigration.gov.ng and apply online, armed with their NIN. The personal information in the passport application must match the information on the NIN and vice versa.
Second is to visit the diaspora desk at any of the International Airports upon arrival, present their details and collect a letter to their preferred Passport Office for biometrics capturing. Third step is to visit their preferred passport office with the letter between Monday and Wednesday to complete the process. The passport will be produced in 2 weeks.
On the implementation of the various components of the passport administration reforms, Akuneme said the milestones recorded so far include the successful rollout of the new enhanced e-Passport with Polycarbonate Data Page and 25 security features, making the Nigerian international passport more respected globally.
The opening of centralised passport production centres in Ibadan and Enugu, which has helped to uptake availability of passport booklets is another accomplishment. Other accomplishments of the reforms are improved online passport application process (portal and timelines); improved secured (online) payment solutions that eliminate the activities of middlemen, touts, racketeers and fraudsters; online appointment-based enrolment for passport after payment; Passport Application Tracking (PATs) solution; and opening of passport front offices in Alimosho (Lagos State), Daura (Katsina State), Oyo (Oyo State), and Zaria (Kaduna State). Akuneme listed others as: sensitisation of operation irregularities at passport centres including the arrest and disciplinary actions on errant officials; establishment of passport contact centres and digital channels; instituting a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for passport processing; policy on admittance of Nigerians with expired passports; sequential passport application processing; and the launch of fastrack diaspora service.