Foreigners seeking to work in Kenya will hence forth find it hard to acquire documentation after the government imposed tough measures for issuance of employment permits.
In a dramatic policy shift aimed at protecting local jobs, Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i said only foreigners with pre-approved work permits would be allowed into the country.
“In conformity with global best practices for acquiring work permits, the applicants will make their applications from wherever he/she is and only come to Kenya when approval is granted,” he said.
He warned that severe penalties would be meted out on foreigners who come into the country on tourist visas but start working illegally.
“Deterrent penalties will be meted out on companies and individuals who employ foreigners without the requisite documentation,” he said.
The new regulations follow the completion of a two-month verification exercise designed to weed out illegal expatriates from the local job market.
It comes after an outcry by Kenyans that foreigners from West Africa and China were invading their businesses especially in the informal sector. At the same time, there have been complaints in the NGO sector that expatriates were locking out locals from plum positions.
The new laws will, therefore, give the government better control of the job market and drastically reduce the country’s expatriate community.
The new work permits regime also establishes a committee to recommend passes and work permits for approval to seal loopholes for corruption.
Additionally, the Department of Immigration Services will maintain a regularly updated digital database of work permit holders, thus making tracking of expiry easy.
Matiang’i hailed the exercise as successful, saying it provided the government with an excellent opportunity to learn many valuable lessons on the management of work permits regime.
“Going forward, and based on lessons learned from the just-concluded exercise, the government shall be putting in place a raft of administrative and policy changes around the management of work permits regime to enhance service delivery, guarantee security and sanctity of Kenyan work permits as well as that of other vital documents issued by the Department of Immigration Services (DIS),” he said.