IMMIGRATION LAW IN CAMEROON
Immigration in the present context is the movement of people from one country to another. Immigration law is a body of rules and regulations that govern the coming into and the exit of people in a country. The Law that governs Immigration in Cameroon is Presidential Decree No. 2007/255/PR of 4th September, 2007 fixing conditions for the Application of Law No. 97/012 of 10th January, 1997 laying down the conditions of Entry, Stay and Exit of Aliens from Cameroon. As such this Decree does not only deal with the conditions of entry but also deals with the conditions of stay and exit of foreigners in Cameroon.
According to this Decree, there are different types of foreigners: temporal visitors, visitors on a brief stay and resident foreigners. They are further sub-divided as follows:
- Temporary Visitors: Article 2 of the above Decree provides that the following shall fall into the above category:
- Private visitors
- Persons on mission
- Business Men
- Invitees or participants in a manifestation organized in the national territory
- Sanitary Evacuation
- Foreigners on a brief stay: Falling into this category are the following:
- Contractual Workers
- Independent Workers
- Internees on Long Duration
- Family Members of a foreigner on a brief stay in Cameroon
- Resident Foreigners: Falling into this category are the following:
- Contractual workers who have been resident in Cameroon for a continuous period of not less than six years
- A spouse to a Cameroonian national
- Members of religious congregations duly recognized.
Chapter III of the above Decree deals with entry visas and their various categories. There are four main categories of entry visas to wit:
- Transit Visa (its validity does not exceed 5 days)
- Tourism Visa (its validity does not exceed 30 days)
- Temporary Visa (its validity does not exceed 3 months)
- Long Stay Visa (its validity could be 3 months but does not exceed 6 months).
It is important to note that entry visas cannot be changed from one category to another and can only be prolonged in case of force majeure and on the authorization of the Delegate for National Security.
Apart from a long stay visa, none of the above visas give its bearer the right to exercise a lucrative activity, a professional activity or a possibility to undertake studies in Cameroon. The conditions and modalities for delivery of an entry visa for each of the afore-mentioned categories are contained in Articles 27 to 30 of the Decree. The deliverance of each form of visa is subject to certain common as well as specific conditions.
With regard to the specific conditions, any person who applies for a transit visa has to produce a passport, an air ticket, a visa or an authorisation to enter the country and the required international vaccination certificates.
In the case of a tourism visa the conditions are same as those for a long stay visa. They include the production of a passport which has a validity of at least six months, an air ticket or any other travelling ticket valid in Cameroon, international vaccination certificates, guarantee of repatriation, a labour contract signed by the Minister in charge of Labour (for those who wish to exercise a labour activity in Cameroon), an authorisation to carry out a liberal profession or promote an agricultural, pastoral, commercial, artistic or any other activity issued by a competent authority (in case of need), an act justifying the material or parental link for spouses and minors, a certificate of registration delivered by the competent school authority in case of students, an act of internship for interns.
For a temporal visa, we have a passport or any other travelling title having a validity of at least six months, an air ticket or an entry and exit transport title, a custom ticket, international vaccination certificates, justification of the reason of the visit as well as conditions and means of subsistence sufficient for the period of stay, a harbouring certificate delivered by the person who takes the responsibility to harbour the visitor or a firm reservation of a hotel for the period of stay envisaged and a mission order.
As far as the common conditions are concerned, Visas are accorded by the competent diplomatic mission or consular post within 48 hours from the date of deposit of the application. Where the applicant is refused the visa, he is informed within 24 hours from the date of deposit of the refusal by the competent service which informs the frontier police accordingly.
Chapter IV of the Decree deals with Resident Permits. A Resident Permit is an identification document given to a foreigner aged 18 and above, admitted to stay in Cameroon. Its validity is 2 years and 10 years renewable for a short and long stay Permits, respectively. We also have a Refugee Permit which is a document given to a foreigner who benefits from the right of asylum.
It defines the characteristics of the above mentioned categories of permits and the conditions for their issuance and renewal.
The characteristics of these documents are that they are laminated and secured, rectangular in form, measures 85mm long and 54mm large. They are green and blue for a Resident and Refugee Permits, respectively. They carry on one side the names, date and place of birth, filial, profession, address, sex, right thumb print, photograph, signature and the Seal of the State. On the other side it carries the words “The Republic of Cameroon” in bold characters, green or blue in colour depending on whether it is a Resident or a Refugee Permit. It also contains the card number, the nationality, the date of issuance, the expiry date, the names of the signing authority, the computer identification code, the Cameroon flag at the right top, the pic of Kapsiki, the indication Resident Permit or Refugee Permit (depending on the case) written in capital letters, in black at the top of the card.
The conditions for issuance and renewal of permits are subject to the provisions of Articles 34, 37 and 39 (paragraph 2) of the Decree.
For the issuance of a Resident Permit, the foreigner has to produce a certified true copy of his passport dating less than 3 months, a certificate of domicile, a certificate of non conviction, a tax certificate or an acquittal certificate, or a patent photocopy valid for the ongoing budgetary exercise. He shall also pay stamp duties provided by the law of finance; he shall give justifications of stay as stated by Article 31 of the Decree.
The renewal of a Resident Permit for a short stay is subject to the production of the former Permit at least one month before its expiration and all justifications or proofs of stay. For the long stay Resident Permit, the foreigner will produce document depending on whether they are for a foreigner admitted to reside, for members of a religious congregation, or for the spouse of a Cameroon national.
With regard to a foreigner admitted as resident, the conditions are same as those for a short stay. For members of a religious congregation, they have to produce an acknowledgement act from the Congregation, an identification document attesting the quality of the member signed by the head of the congregation, a certified true copy of a passport of less than three months of age, a certificate of domicile and a special police clearance. For the spouse of a Cameroon national, he/she shall produce a certified true copy of their Marriage Certificate, all documents required for a Resident Permit except the proofs of stay as laid down in Article 31.
For a Refugee Permit or card, the refugee has to produce his/her identification card issued by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and an attestation of refugee issued by the Minister in charge of External Relations. For renewal, the foreigner has to produce the former attestation of refugee and refugee card one month before expiration. It is important to note that issuance and renewal of Refugee Permit are exempted from tax duties.
The Decree in its Chapter five provides the possibility for families to be regrouped and accompanied. These are situations where a member of a family who wishes to go with or meet in Cameroon for a period which does not exceed 3 months, a parent admitted to stay or reside in the country. This parent must have a place where to live and sufficient stable resources. Application for this is done at the diplomatic mission or a competent consular office or at the immigration office (as the case may be) by the foreigner wishing to stay in Cameroon for at least 3 months. Those who can benefit from accompaniment or regroup are the spouses, children, be they minors or majors who are still students and ascendants of first degree.
Chapter VI of the Decree contains provisions applicable to exit visas. Article 48 identifies five classes to wit:
- Simple Exit Visa
- Entry and Exit Visa
- Exit Visa of three months with multiple entries and exits
- Exit Visa of six months with multiple entries and exits
- Exit Visa of one year with multiple entries and exits
According to Article 54, exit visas are only granted on production of the following, depending on the case:
- Authorization of exit by the competent authority, or a mission order for foreigners who occupy the functions of Directors of parapublic organizations;
- A letter of guarantee by the employer for employees of private enterprises;
- Authorization of exit by the employer for foreign employees on contracts.
The Decree also lays down conditions for the constitution of a repatriation guarantee and the obtention of its annulment. It spells out illegal immigration and gives the Chief of Frontier Police the powers to repatriate any illegal immigrant. The Decree also spells out conditions for sending back to the frontier and expulsion.
Repatriation is guaranteed during the application for a visa as follows:
- For a long stay of less than 3 months (except in case of a transit visa) by an entry and exit transport ticket valid for at least the period of stay envisaged.
- For a stay of more than 3 months by an entry and exit transport ticket valid for at least one year, or for care taking signed by the employee on account of the interested party in case of a wage earned foreigner.
However, when it is not guaranteed in the above conditions, the foreigner has a period of three months following his entry to regularise his situation. This is in the situation where the foreigner is to stay for a period of more than 3 months. This is done by the payment of an amount equivalent to at least the cost of the air ticket (tourist class) from Yaoundé to his home country. This amount has to be paid to the public treasury and is integrally refunded to the foreigner in case of annulment of the repatriation guarantee. The application for annulment is addressed to the Treasurer who received the money, followed by the attestation of services in charge of immigration, certifying that the foreigner is indefinitely leaving the national territory.
The Decree also deals with illegal immigration to the extent where it provides that a foreigner can be rejected, sent back to the border or expulsed. When he/she is rejected, he/she is immediately escorted in a plane or any other transportation means, be it marine, land or fluvial which took him/she into Cameroon. This is done at the expense of the transporter. When he is to be sent back to the boarder, the decision has to be taken 48 hours which follows the Prefectorial Order of the competent authority and this order is immediately executed by immigration officers. As far as expulsion is concerned it is pronounced by the Prime Minister, Head of Government and is immediately executed by immigration officers.
With regard to what precedes, it is clear that if a foreigner fulfils the conditions laid down by law he will be given a visa, a Resident or Refugee Permit. However, these could be refused in case the foreigner’s presence constitutes a threat to public order. Foreigners who are in an irregular situation have a period of six months to regularise their situation and those who are to definitely leave the country have to refund these cards at the moment their exit visas are issued.
However, those who do not follow the rules and regulations laid down by law, enter, circulate, stay and leave the country without authorisation, or who continue to stay in the country after the expiration of their visas will be punished. The punishment ranges from restriction from entering or staying in the country for a period of not more than five years. Also any foreigner who leaves the country after having been warned by any administrative officer not to do so, or anybody who helps a foreigner to enter, stay and leave the country without authorisation will be punished with imprisonment of from 1 to 3 years or with a fine of from 300.000 FCFA to 3.000.000 FCFA or both such imprisonment and fine. This punishment will be doubled if the accomplice is a tax authority, a custom authority or a force of law and order, or if the author or accomplice uses a vehicle or any other instrument stolen for that purpose. Also any transport company, be it air or marine continental or intercontinental which enters the continent without prior authorisation and travelling documents will be punished with a fine of from 500.000 to 5.000.000 FCFA.