News report | | 01/02/2024 | ±3 minutes reading time

At the beginning of 2024, Kenya officially abolished the visa obligation. Travellers from every country are now allowed to travel to Kenya with without a visa. However, it is now necessary to apply for an eTA. This is causing some discontent among travellers who used to be able to travel both visa-free and eTA-free.

New visa requirements for Kenya

Although it is now easier for many people to travel to Kenya, entry requirements for certain travellers have actually tightened. This is especially true for travellers from many African countries. In fact, before 2024, most African travellers did not need a travel authorisation or a visa to travel to Kenya. They only had to show a passport or other accepted ID upon arrival to be allowed to stay in Kenya for 30 to 90 days. Since the beginning of 2024, however, the policy has changed.

Discontent with the eTA

Nowadays, travellers of all nationalities must already have an eTA (electronic Travel Authorisation) upon arrival in Kenya, which must be applied for at least several days in advance. Moreover, all travellers must provide the booking confirmations of both their flights and their accommodation to apply for the eTA. An exception is made for travellers with the nationality of a member country of the the East African community.

However, travellers from 43 countries used to be able to travel to Kenya without a visa or an eTA. These countries include South Africa, Ghana and Zimbabwe. The new obligation to apply for an eTA also concerns travellers from these countries, who now have to apply for a travel authorisation and pay the fees. The hit is particularly hard for those who regularly travel to Kenya, as each trip requires a separate eTA.

Visa waiver announced on a festivity

The visa waiver was announced in late 2023, during a celebratory speech by Kenyan president William Ruto. He announced that travellers from all countries would be able to travel to Kenya without a visa from 1 January 2024. The announcement received generally positive feedback worldwide. However, the joy turned out to be premature, as travellers now have to apply for the eTA. For the many travellers who already had to apply for a visa, not much has changed. However, the travellers who previously did not need a visa now have to apply for an eTA. Kenya’s new visa policy has been heavily criticised. Some also claim that the announcement was misleading and that the policy change is just a strategy to draw attention.

Implications for travellers from the UK

For most Europeans, with the exception of travellers of Cypriot nationality, little has changed with regard to travel to Kenya. In fact, since the beginning of this year, British and Irish travellers have had to apply for an eTA Kenya rather than an e-visa. The requirements and application procedure are almost identical. However, since the beginning of 2024, it has become mandatory for children to hold an eTA. Previously, children under 16 were allowed to travel to Kenya without a visa. On the other hand, the eTA is slightly cheaper than the e-visa.

European travellers should apply for the eTA well in advance of their departure for Kenya, since they will not be let in unless they hold a valid travel authorisation. This also applies to minors.

Consequences of the eTA implementation

The Kenyan government regards the new eTA as a success, as tens of thousands of applications have already been processed. Despite some initial difficulties, the systems now seem to work smoothly, and the country is seeing revenue flowing in thanks to the new travel authorisation. Moreover, according to the government, introducing the eTA was needed to better control people entering and leaving the country.

On the other hand, criticism from other African countries is growing, as they have to meet stricter requirements to travel to Kenya. There is therefore concern that other countries on the continent will introduce similar visa requirements for Kenyans. This would make it harder for Kenyan nationals to travel to other countries, and would negatively impact the long-term project of freedom of movement within Africa.

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