Kenyan business people and students travelling to South Africa will now be issued with multiple entry visas valid for up to 10 years.
Frequent travellers will be eligible for three-year multiple entry visa, effective December 1, 2018.
The country agreed to ease visa application rules and entry conditions for the above categories following deliberations between Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and South Africa Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba in Pretoria on Monday.
Government officials travelling on official business to South Africa will be granted three months free visa immediately.
Currently, Africans visiting Kenya for less than 30 days do not require Kenyan visa. Those intending to stay longer are issued with visa on arrival at the point of entry or through the online e-visa platform.
With Kenya Airways already doing an average of three non-stop flights from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to South Africa daily, the new arrangement is expected to enhance people-to-people contact and unlock the two countries’ tourism and business potential.
Kenya’s proposal of issuance of study visa based on the duration of studies and renewal on application when need arises was also granted, a win for Kenyans studying in South Africa.
Technical officers from both countries were tasked with finding ways of reducing travel restrictions, with a view of completely removing short term (180 days) and transit visa requirements for nationals from the two countries with ordinary passports.
The technical teams have three months to complete their assignment.
The two countries have also agreed to step up joint efforts in combating illegal immigration and also protect the integrity of each other’s travel documents.
This move also comes as Kenya’s immigration department steps up efforts to streamline immigration services through automation of systems, digitization of records, and establishment of the e-passport system.
The governments are also in consultation on the strategies to mitigate transnational crimes, especially human trafficking and smuggling emanating from elsewhere on the continent and beyond.
The agreement reflects the doctrine of reciprocity after Kenya set up a more responsive and straightforward online application process for short-term visa for visitors from all African countries, a move that President Uhuru Kenyatta envisioned would foster Pan-African brotherhood and fraternity.
Discussions with South Africa on visa restrictions have been ongoing and have seen both Uhuru and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa discuss the issue extensively.
Matiang’i was accompanied by Immigration PS Gordon Kihalangwa and Kenya’s High Commissioner to South Africa Jean Kamau.
Visa to South Africa may be granted for visits to family or friends and also for tourism, business, spouse to join a spouse who is in South Africa on a work or study visa, children to join parents who are in South Africa on work or study visa and study purposes.
The visa are also issued for charitable or voluntary activities, research, conferences, to work in the production of a movie or show (i.e. in the entertainment industry), medical purposes, when a patient needs to receive life saving treatment for three months and sport events.