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Immigration Kenya 101

Visa, Special Pass and Permits

Immigration in Kenya is governed primarily by the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act, the Kenya Citizens and Foreign Nationals Management Service Act and the Kenya Visa Policy.

A foreign national can come to Kenya with the intention to either live or visit or pursue education or engage in employment or carry out business. A foreign national intending to do any of these must obtain the relevant immigration status that will legally permit them to travel or stay and/or carry out their intended activity in Kenya. Below is a highlight of the different immigration statuses available to a foreign national:

A VISA enables foreign nationals to travel to or visit Kenya, for instance as a tourist, visit relatives or friends or for general travels. Depending on the nationality, a foreign national can be visa-exempt national or a referred visa national. All foreign nationals required to obtain visa must apply via the online portal for electronic visa before travelling and only upon approval and issuance can they be allowed to travel.

PASS and PERMIT - all foreign nationals taking up employment, or wishing to invest or taking up periodic assignment such as a consultancy in Kenya are required to apply for either a Special Pass or a Permit.

If an assignment is a period of 6 months or less, a Special Pass will suffice but for any assignment or work or business activity that will take more than 6 months, one must apply for the relevant Permit (also known as Work Permit). There are 9 classes of Permits in Kenya as below:

Investor Permit investors or business owners can apply for Permits under 4 categories, below:

  • Class A: for those seeking to prospect in minerals

  • Class B: for those investing in animal husbandry and agriculture

  • Class F: for those in manufacturing

  • Class G: for specific trade, business or consultancy.

Employment Permit i.e. Permits for Employees – employees of registered businesses in Kenya can apply under Class D.

Prescribed Professions – practitioners of prescribed jobs like medicine, law, engineering among others, wishing to set up their own business in Kenya apply for a Permit under Class C.

Persons working or undertaking assignments for Religious and Charitable Institutions such as members of a registered religious institution, charities or registered trust in Kenya can apply for a Permit under Class I.

Ordinary Residents, being a person who is more than 35 years and has in possession proof of USD 24,000 being income from outside Kenya and wishes to reside in Kenya can apply for a Permit under Class K. Such a person is not allowed to work or engage in income generating activities in Kenya.

Recognised Refugees residing in Kenya wishing to engage in business or work can apply for a Permit under Class M.

Please note that this is not legal advice and is intended primarily for information purposes.

If you require tailored advice or further information or assistance in obtaining any of the above immigration statuses, please contact us on


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