Kenya Scraps Visas for Electronic Travel Authorizations for All Travelers

| December 15, 2023
Kenya Scraps Visas for Electronic Travel Authorizations for All Travelers

The government of Kenya is doing away with all types of visas. All foreigners will instead require an electronic travel authorization.

During the YouthConnekt Africa Summit 2023 last week, President William Ruto announced that Kenya would grant visa-free access to African citizens. 

However, the Head of State declared on 12 December 2023 that the government will allow all citizens worldwide to enter Kenya without a visa.

”Beginning January 2024, Kenya will be a visa-free country,” President Ruto remarked in his speech during the Jamhuri Day celebrations.

He added, “It shall no longer be necessary for any person from any corner of the globe to carry the burden of applying for a visa to come to Kenya.’

Jamhuri, which means “republic” in Swahili, marks Kenya’s admittance into the Commonwealth as a republic in 1964.

It is also the date that the country gained independence from the United Kingdom (UK) in 1963.

Reasons behind the visa-free policy

President Ruto said Kenya is the “home of humanity, a scientific fact that fills us with pride and underscores our rich heritage.”

As such, the visa-free policy is the country’s way of welcoming all foreign visitors home. 

The President first hinted at abolishing visa requirements at the Three Basins Climate Change Conference in Brazzaville, Congo, on 28 October 2023.

He stated then that by the end of this year, no African citizen will require a visa to enter Kenya to facilitate more accessible trade between African nations.

Many other African nations have heeded the call to relax or eliminate visa requirements for African travelers. 

Kenya’s new Electronic Travel Authorization 

In place of all visa requirements, Kenya-bound travelers must obtain an electronic travel authorization (ETA). 

“We have developed a digital platform to ensure that all travelers to Kenya are identified in advance on an electronic platform,” President Ruto revealed during his Jamburi celebration speech.

He added, “All travelers will obtain electronic travel authorization.” 

Presently, visitors planning to travel to Kenya pay Ksh7,600 (£39) for a single entry visa. 

The visa fee will increase to Ksh15,000 (£77 or US$98) in January 2024, according to an official gazette notice released on 14 November 2023.

With the introduction of the ETA, travelers will have to pay Ksh4,600 (£23 or US$30), reports 

The ETA is a more affordable option compared to the traditional visa. But despite being cheaper, Kenya is expected to earn more revenue under this new arrangement.

How the ETA will affect travel to Kenya 

Before the President’s visa-free declaration, Kenya had eliminated visa requirements for numerous countries. 

According to eCitizen, an online platform with access to Kenya’s government services, citizens of 42 countries (Category 1) are not required to obtain a visa to visit Kenya.  

Nationals from 144 other countries (Category 2) could also apply for e-Visas through the eCitizen platform. The government has also placed visa exemptions for 25 different groups of people. 

Still, citizens from 16 other countries cannot apply for e-Visas on eCitizen. Their visa applications must be referred to the Director of Immigration Services for processing and approval.

Making Kenya a visa-free state means attracting more visitors and boosting travel and trade. Visa-free policies typically allow short stays between 30 to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.

The ETA will streamline travel by making it more efficient with faster processing. It would also be more accessible to people who may not have previously been able to afford a traditional visa.

How ETA system has worked for other countries

The ETA is not an entirely new system. Many other countries have similar travel permit systems in place.

The British government recently launched its UK Electronic Travel Authorization in November 2023. It is part of its goal to digitize its borders, allowing the government to accurately track the comings and goings of travelers who do not need a visa to enter the UK.  

Canada has its Electronic Travel Authorization, while Australia has its Electronic Travel Authority. The United States also has a similar system called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). 

The European Union (EU) is also developing a similar system called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). Travelers who do not need a visa to visit the Schengen Area must have an ETIAS. It is set to launch in mid-2025.