Immigration Landscape of Kenya
The immigration system in Kenya works with Visas, permits and passes. Foreigners visiting Kenya are required to obtain a visa unless from one of the visa exempt countries. To create this procedure as convenient as possible, the government introduced its “E-Visa Service” in July 2015, the e-visa process became compulsory from 1st September 2015 onwards. Foreigners can easily apply online through the eVisa section for the purposes of business, family or tourist visits. Furthermore, eBusiness allows individuals owning business to access Government business services online to apply for business licenses, permits and registrations offered by different government departments.
Citizens of the visa exempt countries can visit Kenya with no visa for stays up to 90 days. Citizens of Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda (East African Community countries) can enter Kenya with an ID card and are allowed to work, do business, own property, farm, marry and settle in Kenya. Such policy was implemented in 28 November 2017, during the President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inauguration speech. Some countries are required a visa to enter Kenya, such visa cannot be obtained online but instead the application is referred to the Director of Immigration services for processing and approval.
Different Visa types for Kenya:
- Ordinary Visa: Issued for Single or Multiple entries to persons whose nationalities require visas to enter Kenya.
- Transit Visa: Issued for periods not exceeding three days to persons whose nationalities require visas to enter Kenya and who intend to transit through Kenya to a different destination.
- Diplomatic Visa: Issued for Single or Multiple entries to holders of Diplomatic passports who are on official duty.
- Courtesy/ Official Visa: Issued to persons holding Official or Service passports on Official duty and to Ordinary passport holders who are not entitled to a Diplomatic visa; but where it is considered by the Director to be desirable on the grounds of international courtesy.
- East Africa Tourist Visa: This is a joint tourist visa that entitles holders to travel to and within the Republic of Kenya, Republic of Rwanda and Republic of Uganda for the purpose of tourism. The validity of East Africa Tourist Visa is 90 (Ninety days), Multiple Entry.
Work/Residence Permits are issued to any Non-Kenyan wishing to engage in employment in Kenya whether in gainful employment or voluntary service. The Work/Residence Permits are classified from Class A to M inclusive.
- Class A: (Investor’s permit) Issued to persons who intend to engage in prospecting for minerals or mining. For such permit, the applicant must prove a license to prospect for minerals plus a proof of funds for investment of minimum USD 100.000.
- Class B: (Investor’s permit) Issued to persons wishing to invest in Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. There’s no minimum amount of capital required, however a bank statement is required an it’s of the government discretion to approve or not. The applicant must prove the land ownership or leasehold in addition to all licences and clearances from all relevant professional bodies.
- Class D: This issued to a person who is offered specific employment by a specific employer who is qualified to undertake that employment.
- Class F: (Investor’s permit) Work permit issued to investors in the manufacturing sector. The applicant must submit proof of company registration in Kenya together with all other required documents and proof of funds for investment of at least USD 100.000.
- Class G: (Investor’s permit) Work permit issued to investors in specific trade, business or consultancy. The applicant must submit proof of company registration in Kenya together with all other required documents and proof of funds for investment of at least USD 100.000.
- Class I: Work/Residence permit issued to a member of missionary society approved by the Government of Kenya and whose presence is beneficial to the country.
- Class K: Residence permit issued to persons not under 35 years old who have an assured annual income of at least USD 24.000 derived from outside sources or pension/annuity and undertakes not to accept paid employment of any kind.
- Class M: Work permit issued to Conventional Refugees. It’s required to present recognition letters from UNHCR and Department of Refugee Affairs.
- Student Passes: Issued for the purposes of study, research or internship in an establishment within the country by which he/she has been accepted as a student/pupil. It’s required that the institution applying must be registered as an educational establishment. The validity of such pass is relative to the duration of the studies.
- Dependant Pass: Allow dependants to legally sojourn in Kenya due to accompanying “the main applicant”, holder of a valid Permit. The holder of such pass must prove the relationship with the main applicant by submitting a copy of birth certificate or marriage certificate for immediate family members. Life partnership and same-sex partnership are not recognized in Kenya.
- Special Pass: This is a document issued to person(s) given specific employment by specific employer for a short duration not exceeding three (3) months after receiving education or training at an educational or training establishment within the country by which he/she has been accepted as a student/pupil.
Alien Card (Foreign Nationals Certificate)
It is required that all foreigners who are wishing to reside within Kenya for a period exceeding 90 days must be registered. The application for the Foreign National Certificate is submitted at the Department of Immigration, and it includes taking the applicant’s finger prints.
Permanent Residency for Kenya
Under Section 37 of the Citizenship and Immigration Act, 2011, the following categories of applicants, their children and spouses detailed below are eligible upon meeting the prescribed requirements.
CATEGORY: A (Ex-Citizens of Kenya) Applicants who were Kenya citizens at birth but now: Have renounced or lost citizenship status; b) Are denied the opportunity by their countries of domicile from holding dual citizenship; c) The children and spouses of the above mentioned applicants.
CATEGORY: B (Lawful Residents of Kenya) Applicants who have held work permits for at least 7 years; (i) And have been continuously resident in the country for three years immediately preceding the permanent residence application. (ii) The children and spouses of the above mentioned applicants. Requirements Applicants must provide proof of lawful residence on work permits for a minimum of 7 years and with continuous 3 years residency in Kenya preceding the application for permanent residency. Applicants must demonstrate a strong position to make tangible contribution to socio-economic development of the country hence priority will be given to investors and highly qualified professionals. In, this framework, applicants may be required to appear in person for interview to confirm or verify these facts. Documentary Requirements:
CATEGORY: C (Children of Kenya Citizens) Children of Kenya Citizens born outside the country and have acquired foreign citizenship of their country of residence/domicile. NOTE: Applicants may qualify for Kenya Citizenship. Requirements
CATEGORY: D (Spouses of Kenya Citizens) Applicants who are spouses of Kenya citizens married for at least three years. Applicants must give ample proof of marriage and family life besides documentation furnished. In this framework, applicants may be required to appear in person for interview to confirm or verify these facts. Requirements
 Visa exempt countries: Barbados; Belize; Botswana; Burundi; Brunei Darussalam; Cyprus; Dominica; Fiji Island; Grenada; Ghana; Jamaica; Kiribati; Lesotho; Malawi; Malaysia (up to 30 days); Mauritius; Maldives; Namibia; Nauru; Papua New Guinea; Rwanda; St. Lucia; St. Kitts and Navis; Zimbabwe; Zambia; Samoa; Seychelles; Singapore; Sierra Leone; Solomon Islands; South Africa (up to 30 days); Swaziland; Tanzania; The Bahamas; The Gambia; Tonga; Trinidad and Tobago; Tuvalu; Uganda; St. Vincent and The Grenadines; Vanuatu.
 Visa restricted countries: Afghanistan; Senegal; Azerbaijan; Lebanon; Somali; Iraq; Kosovo; Palestine; Armenia; Eritrea; Libya; Mali; Syria; Cameroon; North Korea; Tajikistan; Cameroon; Nigeria; Senegal.
Read more about our Kenya country page HERE.
Stay tuned for our upcoming articles on the Africa Immigration Series.
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by Fernanda Braz