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Kenya is consistently investing in its digital economy and putting forth initiatives that improve the skillset of the local workforce. Because of this, Kenya is an excellent country for global employers looking to expand their workforce.
However, when international employers and employees partner, it's essential that each party ensure they are legally entitled to work with one another.
In this article, you will learn what types of Kenya work visas are available to employees who plan to move to the country, what the work permit Kenya requirements are, and how to apply for a Kenya work visa.
Types of Work Permits and Visas
Whether you're an employee or candidate looking to move to a foreign country or an employer hoping to hire new or relocate existing employees who currently live in or are planning to move to Kenya, you will need to ensure that the correct Kenya work visa and permits are obtained before the employee begins working there.
The type of visa needed depends on the work you'll be doing in the country. Consider some of the available types of Kenya work permits to determine which of these you will need to apply for if you plan to live and work in Kenya.
A Class A Kenya work visa is specific to individuals who are moving to Kenya for prospecting and mining. To be eligible for this visa, you must have a license to mine or prospect in Kenya and prove that you are financially able to do so (at least $100,000 of investment capital).
The Class B work visa is a Kenya work visa given to individuals who will work in the animal husbandry or agricultural fields while living in the country. To be eligible for this visa, you must prove that you can obtain and afford the necessary land in Kenya to pursue this work and that this work will improve the country.
If you need a standard employment visa, the Class D visa is likely the best option. With this visa, you are entitled to work for an independent employer or the Kenyan government. However, to be eligible for this work visa, you must be qualified to perform a job that local candidates cannot fill.
The Specific Trade, Business, or Consultancy visa, also known as the Class G visa, is available to individuals who can provide unique skills that will benefit the country's economy. To be eligible for this visa, you must prove financial stability of at least $100,000.
A Class I visa is available for individuals entering Kenya for charitable or religious purposes. Similar to other Kenya work permits, this visa requires the individual to prove their activities will be beneficial to the country.
The "ordinary resident" visa, the Class K visa, is only available to people over 35, making at least $24,000 per year from either source outside of Kenya or collections from a Kenyan annuity or pension plan. With this visa, you can live in Kenya but not accept a job.
A Class M Kenya work visa, also known as a Refugee visa, is designed for individuals who have moved to Kenya and been given refugee status within the country. The spouse of a refugee may also receive a Class M work visa if they plan to work while living there.
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Kenya work visa and permits requirements
Employers who choose to hire workers living abroad gain important benefits, including a diverse workforce and access to premier talent, no matter where they choose to live.
However, with these benefits comes the responsibility of ensuring the employee is legally entitled to live in their country of residence if it's not their country of origin. This responsibility falls on both the employee and the employer.
To receive a Kenya work permit, you must meet all the eligibility requirements and prove this to the government by providing the documentation requested on the Kenya work visa you're applying for (e.g., Class A, Class B).
Although the work permit Kenya requirements change based on the type of work visa you're applying for, they may include some or all of the following requirements:
- A valid passport and a copy of your passport
- Two passport-sized color photographs that meet the following specifications:
- 45 mm by 35 mm in size
- A white background
- Your entire face visible (free of headgear or glasses) and centered in the photograph
- A neutral facial expression (i.e., not smiling), looking into the camera
- Your resume indicating relevant work experience
- Proof you're qualified to perform the job you're being hired to do (e.g., educational credentials, professional licenses), if relevant
- Proof of your immigration status if you're already living in Kenya
- A signed and completed Form 25 (Application for Issuance or Renewal of Permit)
- This form can be electronically turned in via The Republic of Kenya's electronic Foreign Nationals Services (eFNS) online portal.
- A valid Police Clearance Certificate
- Relevant company documents, including
- A signed and completed Form 27 (Report on Employment) from the employer
- A signed letter to the Director General of Immigration Services indicating the employee is being offered a job by the employer (this can include self-employment)
- Tax Compliance Certificates (TCC) for both the employer and the employee (if the employee is already living in Kenya)
- The company's Certificate of Registration
In addition to the above requirements, employers who plan to hire individuals obtaining a Class D Kenya work visa will need to provide proof that the employee has a local Kenyan "understudy." The understudy will work directly under the foreign national employee to learn the skills necessary to perform their job.
The company must meet the following requirements to prove they have appointed an understudy:
- The understudy's name
- The understudy's resume indicating relevant work experience
- The understudy's contact information (e.g., phone number, physical address, email address)
- Proof the understudy is qualified to perform the job they're being hired to do (e.g., educational credentials, professional licenses), if relevant
How to apply for Kenyan work permits
As you move abroad or expand your global business, it's essential to ensure that you're complying with all the local tax and labor laws. This can get complicated for companies that employ individuals living in multiple countries, as they need to learn the compliance specifications of each country.
In Kenya, both the employer and the employee need to be involved in the employee's visa application process. In addition, the employer must be legally able to hire employees living in the country.
Foreign nationals hoping to live and work in Kenya will be expected to obtain the correct visa to work there legally. Although this process varies based on factors such as the employee's country of origin and the type of visa they need, the application process typically includes the following steps:
- Create an eCitizen single sign-on account with Kenya's Department of Immigration Services online portal, The Republic of Kenya electronic Foreign Nationals Services (eFNS).
- Complete the relevant online application form(s). Note that both the employee and the employer need to be involved in the employee's visa application process, and both parties should be prepared to fill out the necessary applications.
- Provide any additional individual or company information.
- Pay the application fee associated with the type of Kenya work visa you're applying for. The fee can only be paid electronically; cash is not accepted.
- Check the online portal regularly for notifications of changes, progress, or problems with your work permit application.
Application processing time
The time it takes to process your Kenya work visa application depends on factors like how busy the Department of Immigration Services is and whether any issues arise during the processing of your visa application that may cause delays.
However, you can expect your visa application to take up to three months to process and be approved or rejected.
Employees are not legally entitled to work in Kenya until their work permit application is approved. This means you should submit your application at least three months before entering the country so you don't find yourself unable to make money once you've moved there.
Furthermore, for an employee's visa application to be approved, employers must have the necessary entitlements to operate and hire in Kenya. This means a company will need to establish a legal entity in Kenya (which can require significant time and money) or utilize an employer of record.
Planning to hire or work in Kenya? Here's how Skuad can help
Moving internationally and hiring abroad can open up a world of possibilities for employees and employers. However, it's essential that when an employee moves to a foreign country, both parties comply with the local regulations.
Employees need to obtain the relevant Kenya work visa to be able to live and work in the country, and employers need to ensure they can continue to employ any individuals who move there.
Skuad can help companies hire employees in Kenya through our comprehensive employer of record services. In addition, we can help you continue to expand your global workforce through our EOR services in countries around the world.
Kenya work permit FAQs
Below is a list of frequently asked questions about obtaining a Kenya work permit.
How can I get a work permit in Kenya?
To get a Kenya work permit, you must meet the criteria of the permit you're applying for. Typically, you will need to follow these steps:
- Create an online electronic Foreign Nationals Services (eFNS) account.
- Fill out the relevant online application form(s).
- Submit all the requested documents and make sure your employer does as well.
- Pay the electronic application fee.
- Wait for updates on your Kenya work permit application.
How much is a Kenyan work permit?
The cost of a Kenya work permit depends on the type of permit you apply for. Some work permits are more expensive to apply for than others and may require you to prove you have sufficient funds to be eligible for that permit.
For example, a Class D permit costs KES 10,000 ($77) to submit an application and an additional KES 200,000 ($1,548) for each year the permit is used, and a Class A permit costs KES 10,000 ($77) to submit an application and an additional KES 100,000 ($774) for each year the permit is used.
How long does a work permit take in Kenya?
There is no exact time frame in which a Kenya work permit is guaranteed to be delivered. However, the visa application process can take several months to complete, so starting the application early is essential.
Not only can it take up to three months for a Kenya work visa to be processed, but any mistakes or complications associated with the work permit application can add additional time to the application process.
Are foreigners allowed to work in Kenya?
Foreigners are allowed to work in Kenya so long as they are legally entitled to do so. This means that individuals must be employed by a company or organization that is legally entitled to operate in Kenya (including self-employment) and that they have obtained the relevant work visa.
Once a visa expires, if the individual has not had a renewal approved, they are no longer entitled to live and work in Kenya and must return to their home country.
How long can a US citizen stay in Kenya?
How long a US citizen can legally stay in Kenya depends on the length of the specific visa they receive. For example, some visas are valid for 12 months, while others last longer.
In addition, individuals can apply to renew their visa, which may entitle them to live and work in Kenya for longer than their original visa was issued for.