Cameroon Amends Its 2007 Implementing Regulation on Immigration
By Barrister Jacob Akuo and Barbara Nkwo
Earlier this year, we published an article outlining the extensive fiscal reforms that Cameroon implemented regarding the entry, stay, and exit of foreigners in the country. These reforms were introduced in the Finance Law of 2023. You can find the link to the original article in the footnote.
On March 2, 2023, the President of Cameroon issued Decree No. 2023/147, which establishes the conditions for implementing Law No. 97/012 of January 10, 1997. This law regulates the entry, stay, and exit of aliens in Cameroon. The 2023 Decree replaces the previous Decree No. 2007/255 of September 4, 2007, as well as subsequent amendments and supplements made by Decrees No. 2008/052 of January 30, 2008, and No. 2016/673 of August 4, 2016.
In order to keep pace with the rapidly evolving digital world and enhance accessibility to Cameroon from countries without diplomatic missions, the 2023 Decree has introduced several innovations that have significantly reshaped the visa application and renewal process, as well as the procedures for residence permits and residence cards in Cameroon.
It should be noted that these innovations began in 2022 when Law No. 97/12 of January 10, 1997, was supplemented by Law No. 2022/015 of July 14, 2022. These supplements laid the groundwork for the 2023 Decree by introducing the concept of online visa authorizations for temporary and long-stay visa categories.
The new decree goes beyond the 2007 decree by introducing several new innovations, which we will explore below.
- Digitalization of the Visa Application Process
According to the President’s decree, all types of visa applications to Cameroon must now be submitted exclusively online through a dedicated website. Successful applicants will be issued an electronic authorization with a QR code. The website is found on the footnote. This website is already fully functional.
The 2023 Decree introduces an online pre-registration process for obtaining an entry visa into Cameroon. As stated in Article 30(1) of the decree, applying for an entry visa to Cameroon begins with online pre-registration, followed by the payment of the fees prescribed by the applicable laws. These fees are usually set by the General Tax Code and are subject to amendments by the Finance Law which the government enacts every financial year.
Every person entering Cameroon must possess a valid passport and a visa issued by a Cameroonian diplomatic or consular representative abroad. Alien applicants for an entry visa into Cameroon must register at the nearest diplomatic mission or consular office.
The 2023 Decree also provides the option for aliens residing far from a Cameroonian diplomatic mission to apply for an online visa authorization, which they must present at the border.
When an alien presents an online visa authorization at any Cameroonian border post, immigration officials will proceed with affixing the pre-arranged visa to their passport. This process involves verifying the documents submitted for visa issuance, as well as biometric elements to confirm the identity of the holder.
- Revision of Visa Categories, Duration, and Residence Permits
The 2023 Decree classifies entry visas into three categories:
- transit visas,
- short-stay visas, and
- long-stay visas.
Notably, the tourist visa, previously classified under the 2007 Decree, is now tacitly included under the short-stay visa category as per the new 2023 decree.
Moreover, the 2023 Decree extends the duration of the short-stay visa from 3 months to up to 6 months, and the duration of the long-stay visa from 6 months to up to 1 year (not exceeding).
While the 2007 Decree imposed an age restriction of 18 years for the issuance of residence permits to foreigners, which was not consistently applied in practice, the 2023 Decree does not impose any age restrictions for the issuance of residence permits to foreigners.
- Timeline for Visa Issuance
Article 29 of the 2023 Decree establishes a timeline for the issuance of entry visas into Cameroon. The competent diplomatic mission now has up to 3 days (72 hours) after online pre-registration to issue visas or online visa authorizations. Additionally, the decree introduces the concept of an express visa, which can be issued within 24 hours.
Furthermore, the timeline for notification in case of visa refusal by the competent office has been extended from 24 hours to three days (72 hours).
- Introduction of Biometric Visa System
A significant innovation introduced by the 2023 Decree is the implementation of a biometric visa system for all foreigners entering Cameroon. The decree defines a biometric visa as a highly secure document in the form of a sticker affixed to the passport of the holder. Prior to obtaining this visa, individuals must complete the e-registration or registration procedures to travel to Cameroon.
The biometric visa, in compliance with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), includes an electronic chip containing the digitized photograph of the holder, two fingerprints, or an iris scan. Encoded with this biometric information, the visa incorporates additional high-security features to prevent duplication.
Other Noteworthy Measures:
In addition to the aforementioned innovations, the following measures have also been implemented:
- The establishment of a National Commission for Foreigners Affairs (CNAAE) to coordinate and oversee the implementation of policies and regulations concerning foreigners.
- The creation of a National Register for Foreigners (RNE) to collect and store biometric data and other relevant information about foreigners residing in Cameroon.
- The reinforcement of sanctions for violations of immigration laws, including fines, imprisonment, deportation, and prohibition from re-entry.
In conclusion, the recent amendments to Cameroon’s immigration application process, as outlined in the 2023 Decree, mark a significant shift towards digitalization, increased accessibility, and enhanced security. These reforms aim to streamline visa procedures, extend visa durations, introduce biometric technology, and improve overall efficiency in managing foreign entry and residence in Cameroon.
 Cameroon Introduces Sweeping Immigration Reforms in the 2023 Finance Law in the Form of Increased and New Taxes and Stamp Duty (linkedin.com) or https://dayspringlaw.com/cameroon-introduces-sweeping-immigration-reforms-in-the-2023-finance-law/