Kenya to phase out all passports by 2019 for electronic ones

Acting Interior CS Fred Matiang'i

The Immigration Department has rolled out e-passports but the current ones will, however, remain in use for two years

The new documents will bear the words ‘East African Community’ as well as ‘Kenya’ in line with the drive for regional integration.

The A series, B series, C series and diplomatic passports will cost Sh4,550, Sh6,050, Sh7,550 and Sh7,550, respectively and payments will be made via mobile phone or credit cards

Kenyan passport holders will from today be required to replace the documents with electronic ones.

The immigration department clarified the current passports will however remain in use for two years as the rollout continues after which they will be obsolete.

The rollout is expected to cost the government Sh500 million and is being facilitated by a technology installed by the Pakistani Government.

The new machines will now print 2,000 new passports daily up from the 800 and it will take new applicants eight days to get the documents and three days for those renewing.

Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i (Interior), Phylis Kandie (East African Community), Joe Mucheru (ICT) and energy's Charles Keter were at the launch.

Photo by Beverlyne Musili/Standard

The e-passports feature a microchip loaded with data about the holder.

"Kenya has fully complied with standards and guidelines set by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and EAC Chief of immigration on travel document design, processing and issuance," said Matiang'i.

He said the new document is highly secure and difficult to forge as it is enhanced with automated fingerprint verification system that guards against multiple passport issuance to the same person minimising identity theft, data skimming and forgery.

Matiang'i said the e-passport will assist Kenyans in easing travel, especially through use of automated border clearances or e-gates, automated issuance of the boarding passes and faster travel arrangements with airlines and immigration checks worldwide.

"The deployment of the e-passport system will definitely strengthen the integrity and restore international confidence and rating of Kenyan passports," he said.

Matiang'i also warned immigration officials against malpractices and revealed 12 of them had been sacked over various offences including corruption.

He said plans are underway to synchronise identification documents for security reasons and challenged the department of national registration to fast track their programmes for the realisation of the goal.

Kenya becomes the second country after Burundi in the region to issue e-passports to its citizens.

Those applying for the documents will do so as usual in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa.

Ms Kandie said the start of the issuance of the documents becomes a reality 17 years after lobbying of the same started.

To get the e-passport, applicants will be required to apply for a replacement passport and return their current ones.

The e-passport will have an electronic chip holding the same information as the old version, alongside a biometric identifier, digital photograph of the holder and security features to prevent unauthorised use and forgery.

Details of the passport will be registered with ICAO. The e-passport will cost the same as the current passport, said director of immigration services Maj Gen (Rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa.

"Applicants will be required to appear in person at our offices for photographing and finger prints," Maj-Gen (Rtd) Kihalangwa said.

"It facilitates faster clearance of travelers at immigration checks. It will allow the government to offer world-class consular services to Kenyans."

The current ordinary EAC passports will also be phased out but passports with visas will remain valid.

The move is part of the government's switching shift to e-services to improve efficiency and reduce security loopholes.

For instance, since 2015, all foreigners visiting Kenya were required to apply for visas online through e-visa system.

The government also rolled out the e-citizen, a one stop portal for information and service to help Kenyans get fast transactions online conveniently.

All government agencies are interlinked through a new computer system — Integrated Population Registration System — for personal information of individuals.