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Immigration Department introduces a raft of changes affecting work permits

2 May 2018
– 2 Minute Read


The Immigration Cabinet Secretary, (CS) Dr. Matiang’I, recently announced a raft of directives aimed at transforming the work permit approval process and introducing rigorous enforcement measures. The directives included the implementation of an audit of all existing work permits.

The CS, speaking in Mombasa last week, stated that:

  1.  a 60 day period will be granted for all existing permit holders to obtain e-permits and;
  2. immigration officials scrutinizing work permit applications going forward will be required to strictly apply a ‘Kenyanization’ policy which prohibits issuance of a permits to applicants with skills or qualifications that are already available in the local Kenyan labour market.

We have made enquiries with officials at the Immigration Department Head Office who confirm that the CS’s announcements are yet to be implemented into practice. Therefore, we expect formal practice directions to be issued shortly, and anticipate that the 60 day window for obtaining the announced e-permits will start running at the point in time when formal practice directions are issued.

In addition to the above, a separate policy of simultaneously processing work permits and dependent passes has recently been implemented to replace former practice which required issuance of a work permit as a precondition to applying for a dependent pass. The new policy is aimed at streamlining and expediting the permit/dependent pass application process.

Impact of the new measures on employers:

Increased scrutiny and a stricter implementation of the Kenyanization policy is likely to make it more difficult for applicants, with qualifications deemed to be available in the local market, to obtain work permits.  Although the Immigration Department is yet to issue finer details on the parameters of the Kenyanization policy, employers should be prepared to tap into the Kenyan and East African Community labour markets.

Further, the impending audit of existing permits will lead to increased activity by immigration enforcement officers, which may include visits to workplaces and enforcement measures for non-compliance. We recommend that all permit holders keep their original work permits safe and accessible. Employers must ensure that all non-Kenyan citizen employees have current and valid permits or passes.

For further assistance please contact Rainbow Field, a director in our Employment Practice, or your relationship partner at Bowmans Kenya.