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Work Permits and Visas for Overseas Workers in Kenya

Obtaining work permits and visas for your staff on assignment to Kenya has become more difficult and time consuming in recent years.  Although applications can be submitted online, manual applications have to be sent at the same time, complicating matters for overseas companies.  Both applications need to be sent prior to the time of scheduled travel. 

You should be aware of an increasing policy in Kenya to limit the number of foreign workers, in favor of Kenyans.  While this may seem to inhibit foreign investment in this market, the reality is that immigration will be looking closely at your employees to make sure that a Kenyan could not do the job instead.

Kenya Immigration and Work Visa Requirements

The Kenya immigration authorities have imposed additional requirements for foreign nationals seeking work permits.  The entire processing of the permit must take place while out of the country, and an employee cannot enter Kenya until it is approved.  In addition, the categories of employees that can qualify can change without notice, and holders of multiple passports can only have the work permit endorsed in one travel document.

There is no minimum salary level for work permits, however there is a new strict requirement that for each holder of a work permit, there is also a Kenyan understudy who must be trained to take the position held by the foreigner.  This new rule does seem to undercut any company that plans to assign staff long term to Kenya, with the exception of senior management or skilled technical employees.

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Kenya Work Visa Processing Time

There is a special 3-month work permit available that will allow your employees to begin working while waiting for approval of their long-term work permit.  It can be renewed for an additional 3 months if necessary, and could be ideal for short term assignments.  However, even this temporary permit takes three weeks to process, so the best approach is to send both applications simultaneously at least a month before the scheduled departure.

Processing time for work visas can be lengthy with the new requirements, but the short-term work permit does take some pressure off while the application is reviewed.

Kenya Work Visa Cost

Work permits are expensive in Kenya, costing around US$3000, with an additional annual fee of US$2000.  When you factor in the need to get a short-term permit as well, plus all of the rigors of submitting applications and supporting documents, it does make sense to use a local expert to assist you.  In that way, your employee has the best chance of approval to work in Kenya.

Residence Permit for Foreign Workers in Kenya 

Once your employee has a work permit, they can then apply for a residence permit or alien card.  This process can take 2-4 months for approval.

If after reviewing all of these immigration requirements you decide that you need assistance, Shield GEO can handle all immigration and employment issues for you with our local employer of record.  This gives your employees the best chance of work permit approval, and save your HR department the time and effort of multiple applications and possible delays or refusals.

Here’s everything you need to know about employing an overseas worker in Kenya. 

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