You used to be able to drive to Abu Dhabi, or have a PRO go in your place, and get a multiple entry visa from the Nigerian embassy.
Recently, without the info being mentioned anywhere obvious (for example, when you fill in the online application form on the Nigerian government portal), a third party, based in Dubai, became a place where visas could be also be applied for. At the same time, it appears a Nigerian consulate in Dubai opened.
I’ve used the Dubai service in the past, but as I paid for a 12 month visa and only got a three month visa, I decided to apply directly to Abu Dhabi, partly to see if that would help get what I paid for and partly because I don’t really have five working days during which I can be without a passport.
Arriving at the embassy this morning, I read the brass plaque on the wall that informs people when visa applications can be submitted. Pressing the doorbell, a security guard came out to ask me what I wanted. He laughed at my response and pointed to a small piece of faded paper that contradicts its larger brass counterpart, telling applicants that their papers can now only be submitted in Dubai at the third party’s office.
So I drove back to Dubai to visit the outsourced service. There I was told that my application form had an option selected saying that the visa should be processed in Dubai, as opposed to in Abu Dhabi. Fair enough. Except the problem is that the Dubai consulate has a technical problem which means visas can only be processed in Abu Dhabi. This meant two things – I would have to submit and pay for a new application and claim a refund for the previous application ($960). I would also have to get a new invitation letter from our Nigerian partner and a new no objection letter from my company – the reason for this being that if my visa were to be processed in Abu Dhabi, it specifically had to be addressed to the ambassador in Abu Dhabi. Not the UAE consulate and to whom it may concern, but the ambassador.
After about ten minutes I managed to confirm that since I now wouldn’t be able to submit my passport for another two weeks, I could call the outsourced people a few days before I next dropped off my papers to check whether the technical problem had been resolved. That would mean everything could go ahead without new letters and a new application. However, if the technical problem hadn’t been resolved by then I would need to do those things.
They were actually quite helpful in pointing out that the fact that my invitation letter mentioned I would be conducting business meetings and ‘training’ meant that it was likely my business visitor visa would simply be refused, apparently on the grounds that it might look as if I were planning to carry out paid work in Nigeria. In my case, ‘training’ would be things along the lines of a product overview presentation, or a session on the whiteboard with a reseller.
So, now I need to wait to see if I need to sort out and pay for a new application and claim the money back for the old one, or whether I can continue with the current one. Either way, I will have to get another version of the letters, just in case I do need to do this. Call me sceptical, but I don’t think getting the refund will be straightforward…
Same day visas are no longer available – however, you can pay an express fee to get a visa in four working days, even though the third party service’s website specifies it will take three. The alternative is to wait five working days – not exactly a huge difference.
In addition, everyone I know who has recently applied for visas, including me, has paid for a one or two year visa at great expense and only received three or six month visas. One colleague, a regular traveller to Lagos for several years, only even managed to get a three month single entry visa.
Of course, there is never any refund or explanation.
So the new process is inefficient, ill-explained, costly, random, opaque and a huge waste of time for everyone involved.
The Nigerian Embassy’s website contains no mention of any of these procedures (at least that I can find). Googling relevant terms provides no hits directing you to OIS, the outsourced visa people.
In addition to the fact that the new process is slower, you have to pay a fee to OIS for the pleasure of them being the new middlemen.
This rigmarole makes it incredibly difficult for business people to visit Nigeria.
All this said, I have full confidence in the Nigerian authorities when it comes to addressing these issues and proving that Nigeria is open for business. I’m sure the issues we are all experiencing are just teething problems and will be dealt with over the next few years.
Ah, I feel better now.