Kenya waives work permit fees for East African citizens

By John Oyuke

Kenya has formally waived the work permit fee for all East African citizens coming to the country.

Immigration minister, Otieno Kajwang, has sent a gazette notice for publication to enforce the new move meant to bring down barriers to the movement of labour in the region.

Once Gazetted, citizens of Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda seeking to reside, or engage in employment, occupation, business or profession in Kenya would not pay the fee.

"In the spirit of the East African Community Common Market Protocol, citizens of member states have been exempted from payment of work permit fees," Kajwang said yesterday.

He added that this free movement of labour and persons, which is considered a key freedom in promoting human capacity, would be further facilitated when all the five Partner States introduce third generation (Machine Readable) identity cards.

Can exempt people

The Immigration Act gives the minister powers to exempt any person, or class or description of persons from paying for work permits by publishing a notice in the Gazette.

Rwanda and Kenya had earlier signed bilateral arrangements to waive the work permit fees.

While launching the East African Community Common market on Wednesday, President Kibaki ordered the waiver of work permit fees for all East Africans coming to Kenya.

"I am directing the minister responsible for Immigration to waive fees on work permits for all East African citizens," he said.

He also directed Attorney General, Amos Wako, to use Parliament to harmonise conflicting laws with EAC countries for the smooth implementation of the protocol.

Speaking at Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the president said work permit fees currently charged on the citizens of Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania, were a barrier to enjoyment of freedom of movement of workers. He added that the expanded market would increase opportunities for trade in goods and services.

"It is my expectation that public servants charged with executing the Common Market, especially those responsible for immigration, labour, customs and education, will facilitate the process, rather than adopt a control attitude," the president said.

Kajwang downplayed the fear that such a waiver would erode the ministry’s sources of revenue, saying the country would gain more through increased business and investment.

Currently, non-citizens of Kenya employed in the country have to pay a work permit fee of Sh200, 000, while investors have to pay Sh50, 000.