Centromeres form a chromosomal platform for the assembly of the kinetochores, which are required for orderly chromosome segregation. Assembly of both centromeres and kinetochores proceeds by a step-by-step mechanism that is regulated in time and space. It has been suggested that the regulated nuclear import of centromeric proteins is involved in this process. We show that the knockdown of nucleoporins NPP-10, NPP-13 and NPP-20 in Caenorhabditiselegans affects early steps in centromere formation and sister centromere resolution, and results in severe chromosomal defects in the early embryo. These phenotypes mirror the knockdown phenotype of HCP-4 (an ortholog of mammalian CENP-C), a key factor for centromere formation and inner kinetochore assembly. HCP-4 is present in the cytoplasm during interphase. It is imported into nuclei and assembled in centromeres during prophase. Following the knockdown of NPP-10, NPP-13 and NPP-20, HCP-4 remains in the cytosol throughout prophase due to stalled import. In prometaphase and later mitotic stages after breakdown of the nuclear envelope, HCP-4 is not incorporated into centromeres. These results indicate that correct timing of the availability of HCP-4 by nuclear import is essential.