Foreign employees cannot enter Kenya until work authorization is approved

20 Jan 15



What is the change? Kenya has passed a security law that bars foreign employees from entering the country without an approved work permit.

What does the change mean? Foreign employees are now required to apply for a work permit and await approval by the Department of Immigration Services before entering Kenya. All foreign nationals staying for more than three months must also comply with new registration requirements.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: The law covers work permits, and, by extension, all other passes.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals entering Kenya for work permits or other types of passes.
  • Impact on processing times: The law does not directly impact processing times, but it impacts the timing of applications.
  • Business impact: The changes will require some additional planning when posting foreign employees in Kenya.
  • Next steps: Employers are encouraged to work with their BAL attorney to submit their work permit applications approximately three months before an employee’s start date. This will ensure that the work permit is approved a few weeks before the employee’s travel date, so that the employee may enter Kenya with some lead time to get settled before starting work.

Background: The Security Laws (Amendment) Act took effect Dec. 22, 2014.

The main change for corporate expatriate employees is that they must apply and obtain approved work authorization before entering Kenya. Once an application is approved in-country, a foreign employee may get a visitor or business visa at the airport upon entry. While the law explicitly covers work permits, it is expected to also apply to other types of passes such as special passes, student passes, intern passes, dependent passes and researcher passes.

The law also imposes new registration and tracking of foreign nationals. All foreign nationals over 18 staying in Kenya for a continuous period of at least three months must register for a foreigner’s certificate with the Department of Immigration Services and notify authorities of travel or address changes. Businesses that provide accommodations to foreign nationals must keep track of their guests or tenants and submit written reports weekly to the Department of Immigration.

Another provision restructures the committee that approves work permits. This is a very positive development that should reduce chronic processing delays. The law gives the Cabinet Secretary sole power to appoint the work permit committee, providing stability to its composition. Previously, committee members were selected by the director of the Department of Immigration, and the reshuffling that occurred with each change of director often suspended processing for several weeks.

BAL Analysis: The law prevents foreign nationals from entering on a business or visitor visa and working before their work authorization is approved or remaining idle while an application is pending.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Kenya. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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