Immigration Requirements for Foreigners Coming to Cameroon on Business or for Work
By Jacob A. Akuo, Esq.,
Cameroon is a rapidly growing developing country with lots of sizeable local and multinational corporations that attract business partnerships and foreign workers. The country has seen an upsurge in ongoing development projects in different parts of the country, with loads more still in the pipeline. These projects cut across diverse sectors and industries including the extraction industry (mining, oil, and gas), the construction industry (infrastructure, bridges, highways, ports), the renewable energy industry, the telecommunication sector (4G and 5G initiatives), services industry (banking, insurance, high tech), the health sector, etc. These projects and initiatives range from government backed initiatives to private initiatives by either local or multinational corporations.
In 2020 alone, the President of the Republic of Cameroon has signed over 24 Executive Orders (Decrees) authorizing the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Finance as well as other executive departments to obtain loans valued at roughly over 2 billion euros for major development projects. These projects are being funded by loans from development and regional banks/funds such as the African Development Bank/African Development Fund, the International Development Association, the European Investment Bank, the Islamic Bank, the Islamic Bank for African Development etc; Sovereign Funds of Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Morocco, etc.; and private banks such as Commerzbank AG, Deutsche Bank AG. The government has also independently issued treasury bonds worth over 800 million euros.
What this indicates is that in the nearest future when the tidal wave of COVID-19 and economies bounce back, Cameroon will witness a massive surge in calls for both local and international tenders for the execution of these projects. It also means a likely increase in primary and secondary jobs as well as subcontracts especially in the technical and services sector during the implementation of these projects. Equally, there most certainly will be a soar in the influx of foreign businessmen, businesses, and workers to Cameroon whose expertise and technical know-how shall be needed to execute these projects. These foreign businessmen and workers will all need entry visas and/or work and residence permits to enter and work in Cameroon.
Dayspring Law Firm as leading immigration attorneys in the region features insightful information and requirements to obtain entry visas, work permits, residence permits and exit visas; and information on how we can help our clients and the business community navigate these sometimes daunting requirements riddled with administrative bottlenecks.
It should be mentioned that the law governing entry, stay and exit from Cameroon by foreigners is Law N° 97/012 of 10 January 1997. Decree N° 2007/252 of September 4. 2007 puts in place modalities for the application of this law. Of course, there are several other legal instruments which are part of this legal framework, including the framework on government procurement, private investment, instruments relating to the employment of expatriates, instruments relating to the employment of expatriates in certain professions and levels of qualification, regulations on secondment, local transfer of technology requirements and high labour intensive (HIMO) regulations.
At the same time, working in Cameroon is governed by the Cameroon Labour Code (Law N° 92/007 of August 14, 1992) and its myriad of instruments putting in place modalities for the implementation of the law, various sector specific collective conventions for both employers and employees and ILO instruments.
Entering Cameroon for Business or for Work
- For Business
To enter Cameroon on busines, a foreigner needs a temporary visa. This visa is valid for a maximum period of three months with multiple entries and exits. A business or temporary visa does not give the holder the right to work in Cameroon but merely the opportunity to exercise (in a personal capacity), lucrative professional activities.
Businessmen under this type of visa can carry out activities such as reconnaissance on the sector and the business activities they intend to exploit, set up shop, acquire other businesses, seek and obtain various licenses and authorizations from State authorities, attend business meetings with their local counsel, partners and State authorities, etc.
In practice, there are multiple formalities involved and several documents needed to obtain such a visa such as a passport, etc.
- For Work
The only visa which gives workers prima facie right to work in Cameroon is the long stay visa. It ranges from four to six months maximum with a right to multiple entries and exits.
In accordance with the provisions of the law, entering Cameroon on a work visa should be in this order:
- first the visa applicant must secure an employment in Cameroon, evidenced by an employment contract and employment letter;
- second, his employer must obtain a work permit for him from the Ministry in charge of labour; and
- third, the work permit is then used to apply for a long stay visa to Cameroon.
But this is not necessarily the order in practice. The consulates sometime grant long stay visas to Cameroon to applicants without a work permit depending on how their counsel puts forward their application. Once the foreigner has travelled to Cameroon, he is obliged to continue follow up the procedure for his work and residence permits in collaboration with his employer or his counsel. Obtaining these documents as soon as possible is vital as the forces of law and order regularly check them.
There are several documents required for a long stay visa to Cameroon, including a passport, vaccination, etc.
Procedure for obtaining both visas
The application for either visa type can be done at the Cameroonian consulate in the country of origin or residence of the applicant by taking the above documentation and filling out the visa application form. To facilitate the procedure, it is advisable for your counsel in Cameroon to enlighten the Consular officer of the forthcoming application through official correspondence with various justifications.
Where Cameroon has no consulate in the country of origin or residence of the applicant, an authorization for a grant of visa upon arrival can be applied for at the Delegation General for National Security by counsel. This authorization gives the applicant the right to be granted a visa by the immigration authorities once he arrives the Cameroonian borders. We strongly advice interested persons to always secure the assistance of counsel at this stage of the procedure.
The authorization for grant of visa upon arrival is granted by the Delegate General for National Security upon the production of some of the following documents by the applicant acting through counsel in Cameroon; a stamp duty application for an authorization for a grant of visa upon arrival, a letter of invitation to Cameroon endorsed by the competent authority, etc.
Obtaining a Work Permit
As per article 27 (2) of the Cameroon Labour Code, every foreigner who intends to work in Cameroon must first have their employment contract endorsed by the Minister in charge of employment before commencement. The endorsement by the Minister is the Work Permit per se. The endorsement procedure is followed up by the employer or his counsel.
Here are some of the several documents needed for such a procedure: an application addressed to the Minister in charge of labour by employer or through counsel, a signed contract of employment between the employer and the employee in multiple copies. Note that the form and content of such a contract is specifically provided for by the law failing which it will not be admissible by the Minister. It is therefore advisable to retain counsel to either draft or review the contract, etc.
The maximum duration of the work permit is two years renewable. Once the worker has his work permit, the next step for him to be fully compliant with local legislation is to obtain a residence permit.
Residence Permit for Workers and their Immediate Families
A residence permit is valid for a period of two years renewable. It is granted (as an individual title) to a worker with a work permit in Cameroon, to their spouse, and their children.
Here are some of the documents required to apply for a residence permit: a copy of the work permit, a copy of passport, etc.
With these documents, counsel takes the applicant to the immigration authorities for the procedure which includes taking of pictures and biometric information. At the end of the procedure, an official receipt is granted to the applicant which acts as the residence permit until the final residence card is ready.
With a residence permit, the worker can only exit and enter Cameroon on an exit visa.
Exit Visas for Workers and their Immediate Families
They are granted to foreigners in Cameroon on a residence permit or foreigners in Cameroon whose entry visas expired before they left the national territory. As a requirement for foreigners who are on a residence permit in Cameroon and intend to leave the country (whether definitely or with intention of re-entry), an exit visa is a requirement that seems a little injudicious. Nonetheless, it is the law of the land.
Exit visas are classified into five categories:
- Single exit visas: granted to foreigners whose visa or residence permit has expired and who are leaving the national territory of Cameroon definitely.
- The exit visa for the outward and return journey: granted to foreigners on a residence permit upon first application. Its duration does not exceed three months.
- The three (03) months exit visa with multiple exits and entries: granted to a foreigner on residence permit in Cameroon valid for more than three months upon the third application for an exit visa.
- The six (06) months exit visa with several exits and entries: granted to a foreigner on a residence permit in Cameroon valid for more than six months upon the fourth application for an exit visa.
- One (01) year exit visa with several exits and entries: granted to a foreigner on a residence permit in Cameroon valid for more than one year upon the fifth application. This application is only granted by the Delegate General for National Security.
Some of the multiple documentation needed to apply for this visa include:
- Filled application by applicant or counsel.
- Residence permit.
- Passport valid for at least six months.
- Payment of the stamp duty
- Certificate of residence issued by the competent authority.
Role of Dayspring Law
Dayspring Law is one of the leading immigration law firms in Central Africa. We provide comprehensive immigration services to our clients including preparing and legalizing letters of invitations and engagements, visa applications to the various consular offices of Cameroon globally, applying for authorization for visas upon arrival and following up at the borders to ensure the grant of the visas to clients, drafting and reviewing contracts of employment for both local and expatriate staff to ensure strict compliance with the requirements of the Cameroon Labour Code and its texts of application, preparing work permit applications and subsequent follow up, preparing residence permit applications and taking clients physically to the offices for biometric information, following up for police clearance certificates at the office of the public prosecutor for foreigners already in Cameroon, applying for exit visas, a general review of all immigration documents and advice.
Our professional network with various consulates, Ministry in charge of employment, immigration police, the Delegation General of National Security, and other actors enable us to navigate these procedures within record times due to our experience, reputation, credibility and capacity of circumvention of relentless bureaucracy and administrative bottlenecks.