What is the change? Kenya is set to implement numerous changes to work permit policies and procedures following a nationwide work permit verification drive that recently concluded. The changes include enforcing a rule that requires work permit applicants to wait for approval before entering Kenya and enforcing existing requirements for understudy transition plans.

What does the change mean? The Department of Immigration Services has outlined a number of administrative and policy changes that will be implemented based on what it has learned from the verification drive.

Changes include:

  • Enforcement of a requirement stating that work permit applicants must be approved for a work permit prior to entering Kenya. Applicants for permit renewal should apply at least three to four months before their current permit expires to ensure that the new permit is issued before the expiration date.
  • Introduction of strict guidelines for issuing work passes and work permits.
  • Addition of severe penalties for companies employing foreigners without proper work authorization and foreigners working without proper work authorization.
  • Enforcement of the five-year duration of permits, particularly Entry Class D (Employment) permits.
  • Maintenance of a digital database of work permit holders in Kenya. A pilot biometric foreigner registration process is ongoing.
  • New measures have been added regarding understudies for work permits, including:
    • A requirement that all applications must include an understudy and a clear roadmap of the training, transition and phase-out period for the position.
    • A requirement that justification be provided for work permit renewals if DIS expects the position should have been transitioned to an understudy or another Kenyan with the required skills.
    • A requirement for justification on why an understudy is not required for positions where the provision does not apply.
  • Establishing a telephone line to report cases of foreigners working without work permits. The new number is 0745-660-151.

Background: Kenya launched the work permit verification program, which ran from May 21 to July 22, as part of an ongoing effort to ensure that the country’s immigration programs are not abused. Foreign workers were required to appear in person at the Department of Immigration Services in Nairobi. Workers had their biometrics taken and those who had their work permits verified should expect to be issued an electronic permit that will allow them to continue working. Those who did not appear for the verification process risked having their work authorization canceled.

BAL Analysis: Employers should anticipate significant changes in coming weeks and months, including those listed above, as the immigration department continues to review the results of the work permit verification and conduct compliance checks. Employers should ensure that all foreigners in their employment have valid work permits and document foreigner phase-out plans in line with the understudy guidelines described above.

For those who were unable to verify their work permit due to illness, travel or another accepted reason, the ministry has extended the verification period on the condition that these persons provide a copy of a medical report from a certified medical doctor or copies of exit and entry stamps in their passport and a letter from the company confirming that they were out of the country on company business. Those who may have questions regarding this process should contact their BAL attorney.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and Iseme Kamau & Maema Advocates in Kenya. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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