Immigration in Kenya

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Since Kenya attained self-rule, several positive steps have been made in the Immigration department, albeit with challenges.

The pre – independent Kenya ID was huge and discriminative on race and gender. Females were not entitled to an ID, which was used to control male Africans working as slaves.

However, the independence came with new face of the department as the size and purpose of the ID changed. Women in Kenya were entitled the crucial card as well. The age of registration was raised from 16 to 18 years. The changes have also seen the card change in size and portability.

In addition several weaknesses prevalent before have been dealt with such as illegal registration of aliens, easy manipulation, forgeries and theft. Also dealt with is easy duplication of identity card numbers, delays in replacing lost identity cards and double registration. In sum, these were seen as matters of Kenya security concern.

The Second generation ID has to some extent addressed some of those initial concerns thanks to modern technology that provides a secure identification document by applying the service of computerised Fingerprint system. The Government of Kenya has also gone a step further to establish an Alien Registration System used to register aliens and refugees within the borders of Kenya and to produce relevant registration certificates and Refugee Identity Cards.

New Laws in Kenya

On another front, the government has made strides in aligning itself with the new constitution of Kenya by enacting some new laws. The Citizenry and Immigration Act passed in 2012 have introduced higher tariffs, re-classification of permits and the removal of the “business visa” among other things.

Consequently, the period within which an employer should pay for a work permit from the date of the notification of approval has been reduced from 90 days to 30 days while at the same time the issuance of the “Visitors’ Pass” (commonly referred to as business visa) to persons visiting Kenya for holiday and visits only has been scrapped.

At the same time, immigration officials are now by law, empowered to conduct impromptu visits/ raids at the premises of any employer to verify the number of expatriates an employer has and to confirm if the all expatriates have the right immigration documents/status.

Some of other laws enacted by the National Assembly include the Kenya citizenship and Immigration Act, 2011, which addresses issues of immigration, citizenship and issuance of Kenya travel documents.

With the enactment of this law, a new national service has been established which shall be responsible for the implementation of policies, laws and dealing With issues relating to citizenship and immigration, births and deaths, marriages, identification and registration of persons.

The new service is also tasked with the control and issuance of identification and travel documents, handling of foreign nationals as well as creation and maintenance of a comprehensive Kenya population register.

The national population register will have details of distribution and composition of the population in Kenya, giving indications of the direction of migration and labour resource utilisation. This Act has in effect repealed the Kenya Citizenship Act (Cap 170), the Immigration Act (Cap 172) and the Aliens Restrictions Act (Cap 173).

At the same time, Kenya Citizens and Foreign Nationals Management Service Act has been enacted into law. With the enactment of this law it is envisaged that services hitherto rendered by the Ministry of Immigration and Registrar of Persons and its departments shall now be discharged by the newly established Kenya Citizens and Foreign Nationals Management Service.

The new law also provides that a person who was a citizen of Kenya by birth and who ceased to be a citizen because he or she acquired citizenship of another country apply in the prescribed manner, the Cabinet Secretary (minister) regain Kenyan citizenship.

It also provides for a person will has been married to a citizen of Kenya for a period of at least seven years to apply for a Kenya citizenship, on condition that the marriage was solemnised under a system law recognised in Kenya either in the country or abroad.

The applicant ought not have been declared a prohibited immigrant or convicted of an offence sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or longer.

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