According to a report by Punch, a lot of Nigerians in Vietnam have not been able to renew their work permits, obtain residence cards, or carry out banking transactions.
Also, Nigerians whose passports are about to expire are worried, as Nigeria encounters unprecedented scarcity of international passport materials both at home and abroad.
To make matters worse, the Vietnamese government is considering deporting immigrants without work permits or residence cards.
While talking to Punch, Deborah Aderibigbe, a Nigerian student in Vietnam said her passport expired in October 2020 and she was unable to extend her visa.
She said: “Prior to my passport and visa expiring, I kept going to the Nigerian embassy here all to no avail. My school used to be my visa sponsor and they were willing to help extend my visa for one year after graduation; however, they couldn’t do that because I had less than six months’ validity on my passport as of last August. But because I hadn’t finished my studies, they tried to help me get three months extension with a letter that was taken to the Vietnam Immigration Department and then, I got the three months till November 2020.
“Around October 2020, I went to the Immigration for another extension, and the embassy gave another letter similar to the previous one, but it wasn’t accepted because their law states that we need to have six months validity on our passports to be able to extend our visas and my school couldn’t help; they claim that I was no longer their student and not their responsibility anymore.
“The Nigerian embassy here in Hanoi kept telling me to remain hopeful that the pandemic situation would subside, and that they had tried their best to reach officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service in Malaysia, Thailand and Japan to come to Vietnam for our passport renewal, but they didn’t oblige the request, because they didn’t want to undergo the two weeks quarantine. It is almost one year and they’re still giving the same excuse for not coming to renew our passports.”
Another Nigerian, Femi Adebanjo, whose passport also expired last October said: “I haven’t been able to renew my expired passport since October 15, 2020, likewise others. Right now, we are hopeless. I also cannot conduct banking transactions, because I have to always present my passport and valid visa at the bank. I no longer have my freedom of movement within the country due to my lack of a valid passport, as it has to be presented at all times.
“We are literally stuck in our city. We are scared every day because we don’t know what will happen next. The embassy gave us a letter, but it is no longer valid. They don’t want to see it anymore. They keep saying other countries have found a way, but we have been showing papers in every office.
“I was unable to renew my passport in Vietnam because the Nigerian embassy in Vietnam was waiting for the Nigerian embassy in Malaysia to come to Hanoi, Vietnam, and do the data capturing. The Nigerian embassy officials in Malaysia could not come because they said they can’t afford to pay for the quarantine package when they come to Vietnam.
“I was advised to go to Malaysia and renew it, which is impossible, because I don’t have up to six months validity on my passport; I have just one month, and no embassy will issue me a visa to their country. The Nigerian government should help us before we are kicked out of here.”
Michael Igbokwe embarked on a trip from Vietnam to Enugu in Nigeria to get his passport renewed but has been stuck in Nigeria due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Igbokwe said: “I decided to come back to Nigeria to renew my passport in Enugu. My inability to get my passport renewed in Vietnam cost me my work. I was paid $1,500 (N700,000) monthly with free accommodation. Now, I am not doing anything here in Nigeria since I got back that can fetch me up to N50,000 monthly. It also costs me the shoes and clothes business I was doing in Vietnam, because I buy shoes, clothes and other things and send them to Nigeria for sale.
“Now, I can’t do it again because I don’t have the money to do it. I was living a good life abroad because nothing is working in this country. My passport was to expire on January 16, 2021 and I started complaining about it since May 5, 2020.
“The Nigerian embassy was just giving me false hope that it would be renewed soon and in October 2020 at most, but nothing happened. So, I left Vietnam on December 15, 2020, but I am unable to go back to Vietnam because of the travel ban as a result of the pandemic. It has not been easy here, especially when you travel to a good country and come back. The Nigerian embassy in Vietnam is really making many innocent Nigerians have bad names. They didn’t help Nigerians there and they have to survive by doing anything possible to survive.”
Olaoluwa Olatunbosun revealed she was struggling to get residence card, that expired on May 15, 2021 renewed and expressed fear that she might be asked to leave Vietnam soon.
She said: ‘’I am currently struggling to renew my temporary residence card; I cannot deposit or withdraw money from my bank account. I have to provide new passport details to my landlord so that I won’t be kicked out. My card expired on the 15th of this month (May).”
Jude Okonkwo disclosed life had been hard for him as he has been rendered homeless and jobless due to his inability to get his passport renewed.
He said: “My passport expired on October 6, 2020. Life has been hellish for me. I have limited access to basic things I should have access to here. I lost my job, bank access, mobile line and anything that has to do with my residence permit. Right now, I am being accommodated by my friend. I have written to the Nigeria Immigration Service and our two embassies here to no avail since August last year and nothing has been done till now.
“I lost my job on October 30, 2020. The reason is because of my expired passport. For one to work legally here, he needs a work permit and a residence card, which we call the ‘TRC’. Our passport number is tied to these two documents and the length of validity of these two documents is determined by the passport. Immediately my passport expired, both the work permit and residence card became invalid, and no employer can retain or mploy someone without a work permit and residency card.”
Aina Ayotunde, who is a lecturer in a Vietnamese university, fears he could lose all he had worked for if he is deported owing to his inability to renew his passport.
He said: “I can’t get my residence card. I can’t get a work permit. I can’t do online banking. Everything has been crippled. These are prerequisites for an expert to thrive in a foreign land.
“I was told a letter would be given to me addressed to the immigration of my province, which I got, but the letter doesn’t carry any weight. What all this means is that I am not well documented with the government here, which in all areas is wrong.
“The most painful thing is that I have been stopped from doing Internet banking as I can’t do this without my passport, and this means I may not be able to leave with my money if they eventually tell me to leave. The Nigerian government should help us.”
The government of Vietnam is deliberating on deportation of foreign nationals working in Vietnam without work permits. Dantri, a popular newspaper in Vietnam cited a May 14 letter sent to relevant authorities in the country.
Part of the letter read: “it is necessary to direct the authorities to consider deporting foreign workers who work in Vietnam but do not have a work permit (or a written confirmation that they are not eligible for a work permit) and do not comply with regulations of the law on entry, exit, transit and residence of foreigners in Vietnam.”
Though the Nigerian Immigration Service has suspended the issuance of passports nationwide, the suspension did not affect foreign missions. However, the spokesperson for the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Abdul-Rahman Balogun has blamed the problems on the pandemic.
Balogun said: “The passport issue is all over and is caused by the pandemic. This was one of the reasons we engaged the Minister of Interior some weeks ago. He said if your passport expired on arrival, you would be issued a temporary passport for 30 days, and if you are in Nigeria and you have a green passport and it has expired, hold that expired passport and you would be allowed to enter the country and within 30 days you get it renewed here before you go back.”