What is the change? The Kenyan government has said it will no longer approve special pass or work permit applications for foreign nationals who are in the country when they apply for work authorization.

What does the change mean? Applicants must apply for work authorization before entering Kenya. Foreign nationals applying for a renewal may obtain a new work permit in Kenya, but only if their initial work permit is still valid. The changes are the latest steps in a broader effort to make sure foreign nationals are not working illegally in Kenya.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing. The change took effect Aug. 24.
  • Visas/permits affected: Special passes and work permits.
  • Who is affected: Employers and foreign nationals applying for special passes and work permits.
  • Impact on processing times: Foreign nationals applying for a renewal should do so three to four months before their current permit expires to ensure that the new permit is issued before the expiration date.

Background: Kenya has undertaken a series of measures recently aimed at making sure foreign nationals are not working illegally in the country. In May, the Department of Immigration announced a work permit verification drive requiring  foreign nationals with work permits to appear in person to provide biometrics. Authorities subsequently indicated they would impose a number of changes, including enforcement of an existing requirement under the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act that special passes and work permits be approved before the applicant enters Kenya. The enforcement of this provision took effect Aug. 24, according to an announcement from the Department of Immigration.

BAL Analysis: The change is another sign of how serious authorities have become in recent months about making sure foreign nationals are not working illegally in Kenya. Authorities have gone so far as to say that foreign nationals who enter Kenya and then apply for work permits should be arrested or deported. First-time applicants must obtain special passes or work permits before traveling to Kenya and renewal applicants should make sure to leave plenty of time when submitting applications in Kenya.

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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