New directives affecting work permits in Kenya

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On the 20th of April, 2018, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government, Dr. Fred Matiangi, issued directives requiring all foreigners to regularise their work permits within sixty (60) days. The directives were issued during a Parliamentary Security Committee meeting in Mombasa.

The directives require foreigners to obtain electronic work permits and the Government to set up a digital register where one can search to confirm whether a foreigner is legally in Kenya. Regularisation of the permits will involve surrender of the present permits in exchange for electronic permits and updating of information on the systems at the immigration offices. Currently, there are no e-permits. By this process, the Government will confirm who is in Kenya legally or illegally.

Immigration officials will also be required to vet foreigners in strict accordance to the Kenyan laws and there will be more rigorous processes for approval of permit applications.  This means that, in adherence to the laws, no permits will be issued for skills that are readily available within the country.

The effect of these directives is that upon the lapse of the sixty (60) days, the police will be mandated to arrest and deport anyone who has not regularised their permits and is in Kenya illegally. The directives will also tighten the already stringent measures the Government has imposed relating to issuance of work permits and special passes.

Employers of foreign nationals also need to familiarise themselves with the directives since upon implementation; their foreign employees may be affected forcing employers to employ skills that are locally available. Employers should therefore ensure that all foreign employees comply with the directives once implemented.

Although we understand that the immigration officials have begun implementing the directives, the directives have not (as at the date of this alert) been published as required by law and may be subject to a legal challenge.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any queries or need clarifications, please do not hesitate to contact Jacob Ochieng or your usual contacts at our firm, for advice relating to the directives and how the same will affect you.

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