Foreign nationals wishing to work in Kenya are required to obtain a work permit. However, work permits are generally only granted in instances where the employer can prove that doing so would be beneficial to Kenya and the position cannot be filled by any suitable Kenyan applicants.
For a foreign company that wishes to get a work permit for one of its employees, they must first set up its Kenyan subsidiary/branch/representative office. The Kenyan entity may then apply for the work permit.
An applicant may make an application directly or choose an agent such as a law firm or consultancy.
Step 1: Completion of the application
Foreign nationals wishing to be employed by a Kenyan entity are required to apply for a Kenyan work permit. The different classes will depend on the specific circumstances of the applicant.
Generally, the success rate depends on whether skilled labor for the position is available locally i.e. employers are required to justify employment of the foreign national instead of a local.
All work permits are generally valid for 2 years, with renewals permitted for an extra 2 years at a time. The number of renewals is unlimited.
Renewals need to be done at least 3 months prior to expiry.
While each work permit may have specific documentation requirements, the following are all required:
- Dully filled and signed application Form 3
- Covering letter from employer/self/organisation depending on the class (as applicable)
- Copies of the foreign national’s passport
- Two coloured Passport size photographs
- Application form fee
Step 2: Submission to the Ministry of Immigration
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.
The following factors are considered by the committee when deciding whether to approve or reject an 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 than that of Kenya and low criminal statistics and security threats.
If the application is successful, the Ministry will issue a Notification of Approval. 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.
The entry permit is then endorsed on the applicant’s passport.
Step 3: Registration as an alien
All foreigners who remain in Kenya for more than 3 months (90 days) are required to register as an alien and obtain an alien registration card from the Immigration Department.
The application must be accompanied by:
1.Two passport –size photographs (either coloured or black and white and taken not more than 12 months earlier) of the applicant;
2.A valid passport or some other official document establishing identity and nationality; and
3.The prescribed fee
The Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act, No. 12 of 2011 provides for matters relating to immigration such as the issuance of work/residence permits, and this is specifically provided under Section 40 of the Act.
The main offices are located at Nyayo House in Nairobi. Foreigners engaging in any work in Kenya without a permit are committing an offense and can lead to immediate deportation and a ban from ever returning to Kenya.