Nigerian women can now pass permanent residency to foreign husbands but not citizenship

Nigerian women can now pass permanent residency to foreign husbands but not citizenship

Nigeria’s brown card is the legal instrument for permanent residency for foreigners in the country. Foreign men married to Nigerian women now have a well-defined path to becoming permanent residents of Nigeria, but they still can’t become citizens through marriage.

Section 26 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution makes any woman married to a Nigerian man eligible to become a citizen, but this right is not extended to foreigners who marry Nigerian women.

The section has been a target of criticism by feminists and other human rights activists who have repeatedly condemned it for being discriminatory.

A constitutional amendment bill that would have rectified the imbalance, alongside other pro-women bills, failed to pass at the National Assembly in 2022, an action that sparked protests at the parliament’s building complex in Abuja.
But as part of his final acts in office, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration introduced what it called a brown card for four categories of foreigners to secure permanent residency.

Four categories of foreigners qualify for the Brown card

Foreigners who can become permanent residents include male foreign nationals married to Nigerian women for a minimum period of one year; foreign nationals of African descent who desire to make Nigeria their homeland through the ‘Privilege of Return’; and foreign nationals who desire to invest in Nigeria in line with established guidelines.

The final category of foreigners who qualify for the brown card is those who demonstrate exceptional talents, knowledge, and skills in rare fields of science, technology, medicine, engineering, arts, sports, and other areas as might be determined from time to time.

“The Minister of Interior is now invested with the authority to confer permanent residency on non-Nigerian persons, enabling such persons to live and work in Nigeria without the requirement of renewal every five years, as was the case,” said Rauf Aregbesola while he was still the Minister of Interior on May 27, two days before the end of the Buhari administration.

The former Osun State governor noted that the brown card has been stamped as the legal instrument to permanent residency in Nigeria.

The brown card may offer a bit of good news for foreign husbands of Nigerian women, but it remains a temporary solution as activists continue the battle for Nigerian women to enjoy the rights that Nigerian men can pass to their foreign spouses by marriage.


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