No US visa for Kenyans without e-passport

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The United States will not issue visas to Kenyan citizens who are yet to obtain a Kenyan e-passport, the US Embassy in Nairobi has announced.

In response to an enquiry from a Kenyan citizen, the US government has stated that it will cease to issue visas to those with the old, non-electronic passport. This is the first major Western country to make the new Kenyan e-passport a mandatory travel requirement, and the declaration is expected to incite high demand for the electronic travel document.

An Embassy spokesperson clarified that Kenyans will still be able to make a US visa appointment using their current passport, but that an new e-passport will have to be obtained before a visa can be issued. They added that those with valid US visas in old passports will also have to get a new e-passport before being allowed entry into the United States.

The move puts added pressure on citizens to obtain a Kenya e-Passport, following a previous announcement by the Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua, that government officials are now banned from foreign travel without the new passport type. This was later confirmed by the Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary, Macharia Kamau, who said his office would not process visa applications for senior government officials if they have not obtained an e-passport.

The new Kenyan e-Passport

The Kenyan e-passport was launched in August 2017, and the system was intended to be fully implemented by the end of that month, to allow the phasing out of the old documents. However, Deputy President William Ruto later announced that the obligatory deadline for obtaining the e-passport was subsequently postponed to 2020, in order to allow Kenyans more time to apply for the new document.

By January 2019, around 400,000 Kenyans had obtained the electronic travel document, although it was still possible to travel using the old passport. Since the new compulsory requirements for travel were announced, the Immigration Department has seen a vast increase in Kenyan e-passport applications from both inside the country and from Kenyans living internationally.

In theory, Kenyans living abroad were to be able to apply for the new travel document from one of several international passport application centres, located in London, Paris, Washington DC, Pretoria, Dubai, and Berlin. However, many Kenyan expats have reported having to return to their homeland in order to submit an e-passport application.

The Kenyan e-passport was introduced as part of a global effort to curb forgery of passports. The e-passport is fitted with an electronic chip which makes forgery far more difficult than for previous passport types. The chip contains the details of the passport holder, which also makes it easier to read the contents of the passport if the document becomes damaged. The Kenyan electronic passport has been implemented with a blue cover,  following an agreement reached between several East Africa countries to create a uniform passport design to represent the region. Blue was chosen to symbolise Lake Victoria, the large body of water which spans several East African nations.

To learn about countries other than the United States for which Kenyans are required to get a visa, citizens of Kenya can visit to check visa requirements for every nation in the world.

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