Foreigners in Kenya risk losing jobs as govt enforces work permit law

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Hundreds of foreign expatriates working in Kenya risk losing their lucrative jobs after the government operationalised tough laws on work permits.

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In a statement, the Ministry of Devolution announced that it will henceforth only issue work permits to expatriates in instances where Kenyans lack the requisite skills and qualifications to undertake such jobs.

In what appears to be a crackdown on foreign organisations blamed for using illegal means to obtain work permits for their employees, the government warned that it would no longer issue work permits to foreign expatriates unless it is demonstrated that there are no Kenyans with the required skills to take up such jobs.

“Take note that the board shall not issue any recommendations unless it is proven and or demonstrated that there are no Kenyans with the skills required available in the job market,” read the letter, making reference to the NGOs Coordination Board which monitors foreign NGOs operating in the country.

The government accused foreign NGOs of employing foreign expatriates without valid work permits.

“There are expatriates working in the charity sector without valid work permits in total contravention of the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act 2012 and provisions of Section 17 of the NGOs Coordination Act 1990 and Regulation 28 of NGOs regulations of 1992,” the statement stated.

It also accused some expatriates of holding work permits obtained in violation of the law.


The government further accused the foreign NGOs of paying expatriates upto four times what they pay Kenyan nationals for jobs requiring the same skills and qualifications, besides other benefits.

“International staff earn four times more than what Kenyan nationals earn for the same job with comparable skills and qualifications. In addition, international staff get other benefits that are not available to Kenyan nationals, that is, international staff get an average of 30 days leave, accommodation allowance, health insurance and children’s education paid for by the organisation; these commonly form part of expatriate packages that are not available to local staff,” the government noted.

“A growing trend of career expatriates who have made a habit of hopping from one organisation to the other in exploitation of regulation 28(a),” the statement further noted.

The regulation provides that work permits can only be given to expatriates who possess skills lacking in the Kenyan job market or that the expatriates will train Kenyans to acquire such skills.

“Expatriates are often too quick to dismiss dual salary systems as a non issue and the subject of wage disparities as a taboo topic in the charity sector,” the statement stated.

The government directed the board, the chief executive officers within the NGO sector as well as the heads of personnel in various NGOs to ensure strict compliance with the law when issuing work permits to foreign expatriates.

They are required to specifically ensure that expatriates are only employed where there are no persons with comparable skills available in the country.

By enforcing the strict compliance of the law on work permits, Kenya is following in the footsteps of neighbouring Tanzania which in January this year introduced tough immigration laws in a move aimed at freeing up jobs for its citizens.

The government launched a massive crackdown on foreign nationals who do not have both work and residence permits, with the Immigration department saying that only 680 foreigners possessed valid work permits at the time while only 66 had applied for residence permits.

“The Immigration department through this notice would like to remind all individuals, companies institutions and employers that it is illegal for any foreign citizen to continue working or doing any activity without residence permits…anyone who will go against this law, strict legal action will be taken against them,” the notice warned.

Tanzania’s move triggered outrage in Kenya amid complaints that many Kenyans, especially private school teachers, had been deported after authorities failed to renew their permits.

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