Tuesday, July 16, 2024

No US visa for Kenyans without e-passports, embassy says

Kenyans in diaspora go through hell to access services from Kenyan embassies
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i displays the e-passport launched at the Nairobi immigration offices on August 31, 2017. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The US government will not give visas to Kenyans with old passports, the embassy said on Tuesday, signalling another round of the rush for the electronic travel documents.

In response to an inquiry by a would-be traveller, the US Embassy in Nairobi said only those with e-passports will be considered for visas, making the US the first major Western power to demand the new type of travel document.

“We can only place a US visa in a new passport. You may make an appointment with your current passport but you will need to obtain an e-passport before we can issue a visa,” a spokesperson at the embassy said on Tuesday.

Those with valid visas but in old passports will not be allowed into the US unless they carry with them e-passports, the spokesperson said.

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The move adds pressure, especially on government officials, as Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua banned foreign travel by officials yet to obtain the new passports.

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Last week, Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said his office would not endorse visa applications for senior government officials without the e-passport.

Launched in 2017, the e-passport was to be fully in place by August 31 to allow phasing out of the old documents.

But in December2018, Deputy President William Ruto said the deadline would be pushed to 2020 to allow more Kenyans to apply for the document.


By January, about 400,000 Kenyans had obtained the e-passport, but one could still travel using the old document.

The Immigration Department, accused of lack of service by Kenyans in the diaspora, has struggled to meet the demand at home, leading to long queues.

The Interior ministry had announced that there might be passport application centres in London in the UK, Paris in France, Washington, DC in US and Pretoria in South Africa.

Other centres were to be in Dubai and Berlin. However, Kenyans living in these countries recently complained to the Nation that they were still forced to come back home for the new passport.


Embedded with an electronic chip, the e-passport is part of global efforts to curb travel fraud by making it harder to forge a passport.

For East Africa, countries agreed to have a blue cover passport to symbolise the shared Lake Victoria and the unity of the East African Community.

It comes with a data page as the old one, but carries a chip with details of the holder, preventing the damage the old one was prone to.

Once fully in place, some travellers may be able to self-clear at airports.

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