IMPACT – Medium

What is the change? Ugandan immigration authorities have stopped issuing special passes to most first-time work permit seekers who enter the country without an approved work permit.

What does the change mean? Most foreign workers must obtain work permit approval before entering Uganda, or risk being turned away at the airport.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: Special passes, work permits.
  • Who is affected: First-time work permit applicants of all nationalities, including East African Community members. Note that applicants for Class D work permits can still obtain special passes.
  • Impact on processing times: Thechangewill add to work permitprocessing times.
  • Business impact: Businesses can no longer rely on workers having the ability to enter first and start working immediately on a special pass.
  • Next steps: Businesses will have to plan for the additional delay and burden of applying for work permits pre-arrival.

Background: The new policy aims to stem abuse of special passes.

Many foreign employees enter Uganda and work on a special pass while they apply for a work permit, but often go a year or longer without applying.

Ugandan authorities are now refusing to issue special passes to first-time work permit applicants, and are requiring them to have work permit approval before entering Uganda. The change affects all foreign nationals seeking to work in Uganda, including citizens of East African Community member states.

However, authorities are still issuing special passes to business travelers performing commercial activities on a short-term basis, foreign workers planning to work for less than six months, investors and directors applying for class D work permits, and work permit renewal applicants.

An official policy announcement is expected soon from the Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima.

BAL Analysis: This represents a significant change from earlier practices, with costly and inconvenient consequences for employees who are refused entry and forced to return home to wait for work permit approval before re-entering. Employees currently holding special passes must apply for work permits before their passes expire, and will not be allowed to apply in-country if their special passes expire.

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

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