The Nigerian passport is more than just a travel document; it is a symbol of national identity and a gateway to exploring the country. For Nigerians residing in the United Kingdom, acquiring or renewing this vital document can be a complex and sometimes frustrating process.
The journey towards securing a Nigerian passport began with me meeting the eligibility criteria and gathering the necessary documentation. Nigerians in the UK are eligible if they have proof of citizenship, which can be established through a birth certificate, national identity card, or a certificate of naturalization for those who have become citizens by other means. Furthermore, applicants are required to provide evidence of their residence in the UK, which can be established with a utility bill, bank statement, or a tenancy agreement. Myself, my sister and her kids all needed to apply – the only difference was that the children have never had a Nigerian passport before, while my sister and I were renewing our old one.
The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has made significant strides in streamlining the passport application process by introducing an online portal. Prospective applicants are required to create an account on the official NIS portal and fill out the e-passport application form, known as the Nigerian Immigration Service Passport Application and Processing Portal. This form collects personal information and serves as the foundation for the entire application process.
Securing a Nigerian passport in the United Kingdom is a multi-step process that requires patience, diligence, and attention to detail
Once the online form is submitted, the next step is to book an appointment at the Nigerian High Commission in London. Applicants are advised to do this well in advance, as there can be significant wait times for available slots. The appointment booking system is a crucial step in the process, as it helps regulate the flow of applicants and ensures that the embassy can handle the demand efficiently. Here is where the trouble begins. With no definitive time-frame of how long it takes for an appointment, we thought applying four months in advance would be significant enough to get a passport in December. It turns out that it wasn’t enough time and we were given an appointment date in January 2024. With our flights already booked for November and December 2023, this wasn’t the ideal scenario for us.
Biometric data capture
At the scheduled appointment, applicants are required to visit the Nigerian High Commission to provide their biometric data. This includes fingerprints, a digital photograph, and a signature. Biometric data capture is a critical step in preventing fraud and ensuring that the passport holder’s identity is secure. This process is often outsourced to a third-party service provider for efficiency.
We headed to the Nigerian embassy to see what options we had as missing out on traveling to Nigeria this year was not an option. With my sister organizing a festival on Landmark beach (NeoFest) this December, the entire family plans to fly down to support. At the embassy, we were met with three options: wait for the respective date, pay £180 per applicant to change the date of the passport appointment, or reach out to a connection (if you have one) that works in the embassy in Abuja to help change the date (something they call a waiver). Expressing that the three options felt unreasonable or out of our reach, we were presented with a fourth option of an emergency travel document. Costing £120 each, we weren’t given any reassurance that this document would provide us with the smooth sailing travel experience if we had booked connecting flights to Nigeria.
The embassy had completely scrapped the option for people to pay an additional fee for fast track. In the queue, I met a lady that hadn’t received her passport since 2021. The processing time for a Nigerian passport in the UK can vary depending on factors such as the applicant’s immigration status and the type of passport requested. It typically takes a minimum of four to six weeks for the standard passport, so I was stunned to hear that someone was still waiting more than two years later.
Another was turned away because she failed to bring her marriage certificate, and almost every person I conversed with were all given 9am appointment times, which meant the line outside the embassy completely covered the London street where the High Commission building is situated.
Another aspect of the experience that amazed me was the fact that in recent news, it was broadcast everywhere that Nigerians in the diaspora are welcome to come back to the country using an expired passport. However, there was no mention of how many times you could fly with it and some connecting flights such as Royal Air Maroc, had not even heard of this new rule.
Payment of fees
Obtaining a Nigerian passport is not a free service, and applicants must pay the required fees. The fee structure may vary depending on factors such as the type of passport (standard, official, or diplomatic), the number of pages, and the desired processing time. Payment can be made online through the NIS portal, and the receipt must be presented at the Nigerian High Commission during the biometric data capture appointment.
In addition to the biometric data, applicants must submit a range of supporting documents, including their printed application form, proof of payment, proof of residence, and the required number of passport-sized photographs. It is essential to ensure that all documents are complete and in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Nigerian High Commission, according to the website. Despite all of this, the embassy is still met with frustration and ever-changing rules.
The Nigerian Immigration Service conducts thorough background checks on all applicants to verify their eligibility and ensure there are no security concerns. This includes checking the criminal record and immigration status of the applicant. Delays can occur if an applicant’s background check raises any red flags, but in general, there needs to be more clarity on the timeframe from online application to issue date. While the website states the minimum time frame, there’s no maximum timeframe documented or examples of the right time to apply should you need the passport for a particular month.
They are required to visit the Nigerian High Commission to collect their passport in person. The applicant must bring the receipt of payment and other relevant documents to confirm their identity.
Securing a Nigerian passport in the United Kingdom is a multi-step process that requires patience, diligence, and attention to detail. It is vital for Nigerians in the UK to understand the eligibility criteria, gather the necessary documents, complete the online application, attend the biometric data capture appointment, pay the required fees, and follow up on the progress of their application. While it can be a bureaucratic challenge, a Nigerian passport is not only a document of travel but also a symbol of national identity and connection to one’s homeland.
Note that if you’ve traveled with our expired passport once and didn’t manage to renew it in Nigeria, you may not be able to travel with it again without having it renewed.
Opiah is a London-based journalist and documentary filmmaker with over 7 years of experience freelancing as well as writing for tech publications in the UK, US and Canada. She’s currently working on a documentary titled IJGB: Lagos in December, the detty-est time of the year, which is set to highlight the best bits of Nigeria, her country of origin.