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COVID-19: How New Immigration Rules Will Likely Hurt Migrant Workers and Job Seekers

A lot of people, friends mostly, have said to me they would love to travel out of the country once the coronavirus nightmare is over. Everyone obviously needs a break from the turmoil the virus has created. Some have plans to relocate because “Nigeria is not prepared for post-Covid-19”. The question is: when is post-covid-19 era beginning?

The novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier in March this year after it had spread to more than 180 countries. Numerous countries, including Nigeria had no other option than to implement travel or entry restrictions at their ports of entry; through air or land borders. It is unlikely that much would change in the near future as scientists and policymakers grapple to understand the dynamic shift needed to effectively deal with the pandemic.

This new immigration policy outlook will definitely impact nonimmigrant visa holders, immigrants and other visa categories and as seen in America recently, the president, Donald Trump signed an executive bill stopping immigration into the country. It is expected that dozens of other countries will follow.

The pandemic has inevitably changed Immigration and as expected, millions of migrants from war-torn countries in Africa and other parts of the world would be the ultimate victims.

If we move across the Atlantic to the UK, you find that a general policy covering visa extensions and other concessions are in place. Particularly pressing is the situation of people in the UK with expired visas but are unable to leave because of travel restrictions. The Home Office is granting visa extensions on request to those with leave expiring before May 31, 2020 and those who cannot leave the UK because of coronavirus restrictions.

Coming back to Nigeria, one notices that many ongoing projects in the country undertaken by Chinese companies have been grossly affected by some of the immigrations and traveling bans instituted by many countries due to the pandemic. It is very difficult to estimate in figures exactly how many individuals these new policies will affect.

Migration policy experts have hinted that some governments are taking advantage of the crisis to push through legally vague immigration policies that are not justified as public health policies, and may likely stay in place after covid-19.

Before the coronavirus, a lot of people left their countries, especially Nigeria, for greener pastures due to unemployment and insecurity. Now, more people will want to leave following predicted severe job losses.  Sadly, for this category of migrants, navigating through the sea of new rules and hurdles may prove harder than finding new jobs.

Those coming into Nigeria are not left out of immigration policy adjustments. All visitors and migrants holding valid visas and or residence permit with confirmed return tickets to travel out of Nigeria within the period covered by the travel restrictions are to be issued relevant extensions at no cost. Such persons are expected to reschedule their flights and travel within one week of relaxing the restriction. Conversely, migrants whose permit/visas expired prior to the travel restrictions would pay the penalty for overstay up to the commencement date of the travel ban.

Generally, immigration systems are poorly designed for immigrants, especially in times of crisis like this. If positive changes are not made in policies, many legal immigrants and guest workers may lose their status as time passes.