Working in Kenya

Kenya is highly cosmopolitan and open place for expatriates to live and work. It is the gateway to Africa and a global hub for travel. Kenya is also centrally located and since it is a developing country working in Kenya is amusing.

Kenya has one of the strongest economies in Africa with strong agricultural, manufacturing and real estate sectors. However, the economic reality on the ground when it comes to securing a job is much tougher for locals.

Unemployment levels remain very high today, and the government is protective of jobs that Kenyans can fill; thus, working in Kenya can prove difficult for expats that have not secured a job prior to arrival.

That said, Kenya, and especially Nairobi, is a major business hub in eastern Africa, and several multinational companies have set up shop there, including BASF, General Electric, Nokia, Coca-Cola, Toyota and SAB Miller. However, even with the presence of these branches, the country lacks the financial and business draw that encourages the same level of immigration found in other, more attractive expat destinations. Most expats who work for these multi-national corporations move to Kenya on an intra-company transfer, where they have previously been working for the company in their home country.

Industry sectors most likely to employ foreigners include tourism, journalism, development, and teaching.

There are many volunteer jobs in Kenya with government and NGO organisations. The country is a regional hub and headquarters for not-for-profit organisations and serves as the administrative centre for the operations of aid organisations in East Africa, especially for matters related to Somalia and Sudan. For this reason, many expats working in Kenya find themselves in teaching or development positions, regardless of their skill-set.

Furthermore, the United Nations maintains a number of offices in Nairobi. The Kenyan capital is also home to a number of foreign embassies, which employ many expats.

Working in Kenya
Working in Kenya

Visa and work permits for Kenya

Those moving to Kenya to take up employment will find that, generally, it is the responsibility of the employer to secure the necessary visa for Kenya. Work permits are only granted to foreigners if the company in Kenya can prove a Kenyan citizen can’t adequately fill the position. This stipulation can be difficult to prove, and Kenya is known for protecting its workforce.

On the whole, expats rarely show up in Kenya looking for a job, but are instead relocated there or hired from overseas by a company familiar with the visa process.

It can be assumed that if a company is hiring from overseas they have already gone through the process of warranting foreign employment, and expats will not need to be involved in proving their merit to the government.

Self-employed expats have more difficulty obtaining a work visa for Kenya, as they have to go through the entire process on their own. The red tape that must be unravelled is notoriously time-consuming and expensive.

Volunteers and employees of aid agencies in Kenya should have their organisations arrange for their visa. Expats creating their own business in Kenya have to secure licenses and demonstrate earning potential in order to receive a work and business permit.

With a large-scale tourism industry, a thriving and highly integrated expatriate community, the 3000-employee Africa-wide headquarters of the United Nations, and numerous other headquarters of NGOs, international organizations and corporations, Kenyans have significant experience serving the global community.Working in Kenya having relatively good types of amenities makes it a comfortable place for expatriates.


Foreigners who want own, or run a business in Kenya, need to have a work permit from the Ministry of Immigration or risk deportation. There are generally two types of permits that foreigners would apply for: a Class H permit or a Class A permit. The type of permit applied for depends on whether the foreigner will be an owner of the business or simply an employee. This article outlines the procedure and requirements for application for the different class of permits.


It is illegal for any non Kenyan to enter or work in Kenya without a valid work permit. The exact
provisions of the Immigration Act (Cap 172, Laws of Kenya) are as follows:‐

Section 4 (1) “Subject to this Section, no person who is not a citizen of Kenya shall enter Kenya unless he is in possession of a valid entry permit or a valid pass.”
(2) “…the presence in Kenya of any person who is not a citizen of Kenya shall, unless otherwise
authorized under this Act, be unlawful unless that person is in possession of a valid entry permit or a
valid pass.”

Section 13(2) (f):‐ “A person who, not being a citizen of Kenya, engages in any employment, occupation,
trade, business or profession, whether or not for profit or reward, without being authorized to do so by
an entry permit….shall be guilty of an offence and be liable to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand
shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both.”

Section 13(2) (g) provides for a similar penalty for “Any person who employs any person (whether or not for reward) whom he knows or has reasonable cause to believe is committing an offence under paragraph (f) by engaging in that employment.”

If convicted of either of these two offences, deportation will invariably follow. The fact that an application for a work permit has been lodged does not entitle someone to work in Kenya, and cannot therefore be a defence in the event of a criminal prosecution.


A Class H Work Permit is applied for by foreigners who will be shareholders in the business. To apply for a Class H Work Permit, it is necessary that the company first be registered.

Company Registration in Kenya

To register a limited liability company (LLC) in Kenya you will need:
1. two shareholders
2. two directors
3. A registered office within the republic of Kenya (both physical and postal address).

One does not require a work permit before registering the company, it is not a pre‐requisite. In fact when applying for a class H work permits, it is a prerequisite that the company first be in existence.

Restrictions on  Business Ownership in Kenya

For certain types of businesses, there are legal restrictions on foreign ownership either wholly or partly. For instance, private companies that intend to purchase agricultural property in Kenya cannot have foreign shareholders at all. For telecommunications companies, at least 30% of the shareholding must be taken up by Kenyans.

Requirements as to Nominal Capital in Kenya

There are certain businesses where the various laws require certain limits of nominal capital to be met (regardless of whether it is owned by locals or foreigners). For instance the businesses of banking, insurance, foreign exchange, and security firms require certain minimums for nominal capital.

Procedure for Application for Work Permit in Kenya

The requirements for applying for a Class H Work Permit are:
1. That the applicant must have already existing company
2. That the applicant must have proof of sufficient capital. Foreigners are restricted from carrying out petty business in Kenya, and therefore the applicant must show proof of a substantial amount to invest in Kenya to justify award of this work permit. This proof is either:
a. A local bank account statement in the sole names of the applicant which shows that
he has 100,000 USD in his control; or
b. An auditors Report on the company issued by a duly registered auditor which shows
that the applicant has invested the said USD 100,000 already.
3. A list of directors issued from the Companies Registry;
4. A tax PIN certificate of the applicant;
5. Two passports size photographs;
6. A duly filled application form;
7. Payment of the prescribed fees.


A foreigner may choose to apply for a Class A Work Permit where he expects to be employed by the company. This is a relatively more difficult permit to get especially if the work for which the applicant is employed is something that local expertise can meet. This stems from ministerial policy to prevent companies from giving foreigners work which Kenyans can do.

Procedure for Application OF Class A Work Permit in Kenya 
An applicant is required to have the following before applying for this class of work permit

1. Form 3 Application for an entry permit. This form is issued by the Ministry of Immigration and it must be completed and signed by the employer and is submitted in duplicate.
2. Two passport–size photographs of the applicant;
3. Copies of the applicant’s educational and professional certificates;
4. Originals of the applicant’s educational and professional certificates which the immigration office will verify and return;
5. The applicant’s curriculum vitae signed and dated;
6. A letter from the employer explaining why the applicant is suitable for the position, why the
applicant was offered the job as opposed to a Kenyan citizen and setting out the applicant’s
strengths e.g. experience, training ability, qualifications etc.

Once the application is submitted at the Ministry of Immigration it shall be presented to a committee for
approval. This process may take between two and six months depending on how many times the
committee sits and the number of applications they must process.
The committee will usually consider the following things when deciding whether to approve or reject
the application:
1. The amount of investment and its impact on Kenya’s economy, which is determined by the
auditors report or bank statement
2. The number of jobs that will be created for Kenyans, which is determined by the application
letter submitted by the applicant’s agent
3. The nationality of the applicant. An applicant has a higher chance of approval of his application if his or her country of origin has a stronger economy’s than that of Kenya and low criminal statistics and security threats
For both types of work permit applications where the application is approved a Notification of Approval
will be issued. If it is rejected, a Notification of Rejection will be issued. This Notification of Approval is
valid for ninety days pending payment of the government fees.

For a Class A permit if the application is approved a security bond of KES. 100,000/= from either a bank or insurance company should be furnished and a fee of KHz. 100,000/= per annum should be paid, although it is preferable to pay KES. 200,000 for two years. The entry permit is then endorsed on the applicant’s passport.


All foreigners who remain in Kenya for more than three months (90 days) must register as an alien and
get an alien registration card. The requirements for this application are:‐
1. Filling and signing of the statutory form
2. Presentation of the application to the Immigration Department by the applicant in person;
3. The application must be accompanied by:
a. Two passport –size photographs (either colored or black and white and taken not more
than 12 months earlier) of the applicant;
b. a valid passport or some other official document establishing identity and nationality;

c. The prescribed fee


An applicant may make an application directly or choose an agent such as a law firm or consultancy which specializes in permit applications to pursue their application. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods with the main advantage in direct application being the saving of fees paid to the agent. The primary disadvantage of direct application is that such applications take a long time to receive a notification. Where the applicant uses an agent to make his/her application they will usually benefit from the speed and experience of the agent.

International Schools in Kenya

There are 25 British system schools and at least 50 international schools in Kenya, which offer exceptional opportunities for students to excel in academics, sports and the arts who later feel inclined working in Kenya. For example, schools like St. Andrews Turi offer a British curriculum education that is on par with, if not better than the best schools overseas. A substantial proportion of the graduates of such institutions go on to study at Oxbridge and in the Ivy League.

World Class Restaurants in Kenya

Because of Kenya’s cosmopolitan nature, its status as an international tourism destination, and the presence of a range of international organizations, Kenya offers a wide range of cuisines from Japanese to Thai; Indian to Italian; local to Lebanese. These tourists prefer working in Kenya unlike other East African countries hence most of their headquarters are in Nairobi

Round the clock amenities

With 24-hour shopping and late-night access to services, restaurants and nightlife, Kenya’s cities never sleep. Comparison to the developed countries with this amenities working in Kenya makes visitors enjoy their stay since they feel at home

Great entertainment:

Kenya has the types of entertainment and cultural attractions to keep everyone engaged, from excellent theaters showing globally renowned plays to cinemas showing the latest movies to great live music of all genres. Unlike other East-African countries working in Kenya is fun.

Parks and outdoor living

Kenya has a very strong outdoors oriented culture, providing opportunities for a range of sports and games, including golf, polo, horse riding, cricket, rugby, bungee jumping, rock climbing, water rafting, paint ball and many more activities. With plenty of parks throughout its cities, water parks, and other outdoor attractions, Kenya provides great outdoor environments for the whole family.

Vacation Spots

Kenya’s world famous tourism provide something for every type of traveller; including Mt. Kenya for an adventure, the Masai Mara for an unrivaled safari experience, Mombasa for a relaxing beach vacation, and many other great destinations.

In conclusion, we would just like to say ‘Karibu’. In Swahili this means ‘welcome’ and what you will find when you come to Kenya is that you are welcomed in every part of the country – from its wonderful tourist locations to its skyscraper dominated cities. Kenya has always exuded warmth and hospitality and been well known for it. With the immense strides Kenya has taken to combine first world infrastructure with old world African charm, it has also become a truly welcoming, attractive, and globally competitive destination for BPO.