The Kenya immigration department will phase out old generation passports in September this year.
The Interior and National Coordination Cabinet Secretary (CS), Dr. Fred Matiang’i said though the state rolled out electronic passports two years ago 1.5 million Kenyans were still holding old generation passports.
Speaking on Wednesday when he launched the Central Rift e-passports registration Centre in Nakuru, the CS observed that 1 million Kenyans had transitioned from the old document to the electronic one.
The e-passport will have an electronic chip holding the same information as the old version, alongside a biometric identifier, digital photograph of the holder and security features to prevent unauthorised use and forgery. The move is part of the government’s switching shift to e-services to improve efficiency and reduce security loopholes.
The newly launched central rift registration centre is equipped with one machine with a capacity of processing 100 e-passports per day. Dr. Matiang’i announced that two more machines will be installed to increase the capacity to 300 documents per day.
For instance, since 2015, all foreigners visiting Kenya were required to apply for visas online through e-visa system. To facilitate uptake of e-passports by Kenyans, the government has also set up new registration centres in Eldoret, Embu and Kisii to complement the already established units in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa.
The event in Nakuru coincided with the launch of an e-passports registration centre in Pretoria at the Kenya’s mission in South Africa.
Dr. Matiang’i who was accompanied by County governor, Lee Kinyanjui, Nakuru Town West MP, Samuel Arama and his Nakuru Town East counterpart, David Gikaria announced that similar e- passport registration centres had been set up in Washington DC, Los Angeles, London, Paris and United Arab Emirates.
The CS put on notice foreigners who were undertaking jobs in the country without work permits or engaging in menial jobs that can be done by locals.
“We arrested scores of foreigners at Macalder mines in Migori. The government is aware that most of those foreigners engaging in petty jobs are in the country illegally. Some have been reported to be doing odd jobs in Meru and we are on their tracks,” assured the Minister.
He warned Kenyans against resorting to violence and lawlessness when dealing with foreigners engaging in jobs available for locals. Dr. Matiang’i appealed to Kenyans to report such cases to law enforcement officers.
The CS stressed that the government would adhere to strict guidelines while issuing work permits to foreigners, adding that the country had a large pool of skilled labourers who could do specialised jobs.
The new document bears the words ‘East African Community’ as well as ‘Kenya’ in line with the drive for regional integration. The A series, B series, C series and diplomatic passports will cost Sh.4,550, Sh.6,050, and Sh.7,550, respectively and payments will be made via mobile phone or credit cards.
The roll out is expected to cost the government Sh.500 million and is being facilitated by a technology installed by the Pakistani Government.
The new machines will now print 2,000 new passports daily up from the 800 and it will take new applicants eight days to get the documents and three days for those renewing.
“Kenya has fully complied with standards and guidelines set by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and EAC Chief of immigration on travel document design, processing and issuance,” said Matiang’i.
He said the new document is highly secure and difficult to forge as it is enhanced with automated fingerprint verification system that guards against multiple passport issuances to the same person minimising identity theft, data skimming and forgery.
Matiang’i said the e-passport will assist Kenyans in easing travel, especially through use of automated border clearances or e-gates, automated issuance of the boarding passes and faster travel arrangements with airlines and immigration checks worldwide.
“The deployment of the e-passport system will definitely strengthen the integrity and restore international confidence and rating of Kenyan passports,” he said.
By Anne Mwale