Countries and Categories of Persons who may Travel to Kenya without Visas
A visa- refers to an endorsement on a passport indicating that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a given country.
In Kenya, the Citizenship and Immigration Act, 2011 laws of Kenya and the underpinning Regulations (the “Immigration Laws”) provide for issuance of visas to foreign nationals seeking to gain access to Kenya.
In Kenya, the Immigration Laws provide for four main categories of visas to be granted to foreign nationals who meet the prescribed requirements. These categories are as follows:-
- Ordinary visa issued, for single or multiple entries, to persons whose nationalities require visas to enter Kenya for visits or residence;
- 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 Visas, but where it is considered by the Director of Immigration to be desirable on the grounds of international courtesy; and
- East Africa Single Tourist Visa, for single entry to persons whose nationalities require visas to enter Kenya for tourism and for onward transit into the Republic of Rwanda or the Republic of Uganda.
It is important to note that the Kenyan visa application process has completely transitioned online through the eVisa platform https://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html
Countries that do not require visas to enter Kenya
Whereas the majority of foreign nationals are required to obtain visas, citizens of countries provided for under the Fifth Schedule to the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Regulations, 20212 are not required to obtain a visa to enter Kenya. Click the link here https://immigration.ecitizen.go.ke/index.php?id=6 to view the list of countries that do not require visas to enter Kenya. It goes without saying, that nationals of the East African Community Partner States do not require visas to travel to the other member states. In place of the visa, they may use their national passports or inter state passes. On a reciprocal basis, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda recognize national identification cards when travelling between the three states.
Categories of persons who do not require visas to enter Kenya
There are also other categories of persons who are exempted from obtaining visas to enter upon Kenya. These are largely holders of Laissez-Passers from recognized international organizations such as the United Nations, COMESA, African Union among others. A laissez-passer is an official document granting unrestricted access or movement to its holder. In Kenya these passes grant access to their holders from the organization prescribed under the Immigration Laws while on official business.
Other persons who do not require visas to enter Kenya include the following:-
- All persons whose passports are endorsed with valid Kenya re-entry passes or any other written authority in lieu of a re-entry pass, this is particularly the case for holders of valid dependent passes;
- All passengers arriving and leaving by the same ship, and who do not leave the ship; and
- All passengers in transit through Kenya arriving and leaving by the same aircraft or transferring to another aircraft and who do not leave the international transit lounges at the International Airports in Kenya.
It is important to note that Kenya has concluded Visa Abolition Agreements with Ethiopia, Eritrea and San Marino.
It is also worth noting that the Cabinet Secretary is mandated by the law from time to time to make regulations prescribing the types of visas and specifying persons or groups of persons and countries whose citizens shall be required to obtain or exempted from obtaining visas before entering Kenya. The Cabinet Secretary is also mandated to revoke or suspend visa free status where necessary to safeguard the interest of Kenya.
Additionally, being granted a Visa or being exempted from obtaining the same doesn’t imply that one will be exempted from complying with other requirements prescribed by the Immigration Laws. For instance, being exempted from obtaining a visa doesn’t mean you will be exempted from applying for a wok permit if you plan to venture into employment or business.
The visa abolition or exemption arrangements in Kenya are largely on a reciprocal basis between Kenya and the countries involved. As such, Kenyans may travel to most of the exempted countries visa free using the Kenyan Passport.
Indeed, the Kenyan passport has been ranked as the 72nd most powerful passport in the world by the Henley Passport Index as it permits one to enter over approximately 70 different countries and territories visa free.
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