by Elizabeth Omol

Obtaining Immigration Status in Kenya

Kenya is a vibrant country with a dynamic economy, which has made the country an attractive destination for investment opportunities and travel. Foreigners looking to visit work or move to Kenya have several entry options. There are several immigration options to consider and explore when looking to enter the country depending on the purpose.

Short Visit to Kenya
When planning a visit to Kenya whether for a short holiday or brief work trip, navigating the immigration process has been made much simpler. President William Ruto recently announced that foreigners travelling to Kenya are no longer be required to apply for entry visas. Instead, all visitors will now be required to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA).

The ETA is an automated system authorised by the Government of Kenya that issues a document that allows a visitor to travel to Kenya. The ETA is mandatory for all foreign visitors except for citizens of EAC Member States that want to travel to Kenya. It is important to note that an ETA does not guarantee entry into Kenya. At the point of entry, immigration officers will have the discretion to determine admissibility upon arrival.

It is a mandatory requirement to apply for the ETA before travelling to Kenya. The application is done through the government’s official website: https://www.etakenya.go.ke/en. The ETA charges are $30. With the introduction of the ETA, there have also been changes in the in visa fees, where a Single Entry Visa now costs $100, a multiple entry visa costs $500, and a 5 year multiple entry visa costs $160. An extension of a visa would cost $200. Foreigners looking to obtain a visa for long stays should note that they are not permitted to work or be employed on a visitor’s visa. In order to gain employment or work, one must obtain a work permit.

Working in Kenya:

Applying for a Work Permit
If you have secured a job in Kenya and considering to move to the country for work, then you must apply for a work permit or special pass. A work permit is issued by the Department of Immigration and allows a foreigner to work and reside in Kenya. It is a criminal offence to work without a valid work permit and such offence is punishable by fines, imprisonment and eventual deportation.

There are several categories of work permits including:

  • Class A: (For prospecting and mining)
  • Class B: (Agriculture and animal husbandry)
  • Class C: (Prescribed profession)
  • Class D: (Employment)
  • Class F: (Specific manufacturing)
  • Class G: (Specific trade, business or consultancy)
  • Class I: (Approved religious or charitable activities)
  • Class K: (Ordinary residents)
  • Class M: (Refugees)

The most common work permit is the Class D work permit issued to a foreigner employed by an employer established in Kenya. The process for obtaining a work permit can take up to six months. However, there is an available option for foreigners who need to start work sooner by applying for a Special Pass.

There are additional passes that can be applied for in the event foreigners would like their families to accompany them, such as:

  • Dependant’s Pass – is issued to a dependant of a foreigner who has been granted a work permit. The Pass allows the dependant to live and reside in Kenya but does not permit them to work in Kenya.

Special Pass
A Special Pass is issued to a foreigner looking to enter Kenya for a short period in order to conduct business, trade or work or consultancy. The Special Pass takes less time to process than a work permit and is typically issued for a period of three months, and is extendable for an additional final three months. If the foreigner wishes to stay and work for a period longer than six months, then they must apply for a work permit. In most cases, the application for a Special Pass can be submitted with the Work permit application and can enable the foreigner to work as they wait for the processing and issuance of the Work Permit.

Investor Permit
Investors looking to start businesses or invest in Kenya can also obtain an investor permit known as the Class G work permit. The permit is issued to investors looking to build a business and contribute to the local economy by meeting the investment threshold of USD 100,000. For this reason, investors should note that they will be required to incorporate a company to facilitate the application of their work permit. An additional requirement that investors should consider is the proof of the investment. The investment of USD 100,000 must be deposited in a local bank account and proof of such investment provided through certified bank statements. Investments in other forms such as real estate will not be considered.

Investors have two options when considering how to apply for an Investor permit. They can either:

  • Apply directly to the Department of Immigration; or
  • Apply through the Kenya Investment Authority.
    The Kenya Investment Authority (KIA) is a statutory body established to promote investment in Kenya. Along with its other mandates, the KIA can also assist foreign investors with their immigration applications specifically obtaining an Investor Permit and work permits for foreign employees. In order to qualify for such assistance, the investor must first register their company as a member of the KIA. The KIA will assist by writing a cover letter to the Department of Immigration on behalf of the applicant that would assist in potentially endorsing the application. The immigration officer at KIA would also follow up on the file upon request.

Student’s Pass/ Internship/Research Pass
This pass is issued to foreign students looking to study in Kenya’s Education or Training Institutions where they have been accepted or admitted. The Pass is issued to foreign students who are looking to conduct research or a short-term internship for the purposes of furthering their education; however, they must be attached to a registered Kenyan Education Institution.

Process and Requirements for Applying
For a Work Permit or Pass
The process for applying for the work permits is the same by filling in the forms on the online portal Kenya Foreign Nationals Service Portal (eFNS) (https://fns.immigration.go.ke/account/) and uploading the required documents and paying the requisite fees.

The process generally takes about 6 months to complete, however the timelines are subject to the discretion of the Department of Immigration.

How we can help:
At Pannike+Partners, we provide guidance on the different immigration processes. We provide assistance with preparation of immigration documents, engaging key government authorities and guidance on the requirements and the immigration procedure throughout the application process.

For further enquiries, please contact:

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Elizabeth Omol

Head of Nairobi Office

E nairobi(at)pannike-partners.com

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