Economy

Confusion as old passports in use weeks after phase-out

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Interior and Coordination of National Government secretary Fred Matiang’i. PHOTO | MINISTRY OF INTERIOR

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Summary

  • The Immigration Department has remained mum as the deadline for phasing out the old passport lapsed two weeks into the New Year, creating confusion among travellers and airlines.
  • The government had in February last year extended the deadline by 10 months, which was to end in December 2021, locking out Kenyans with the old generation passports from international travel.

The Immigration Department has remained mum as the deadline for phasing out the old passport lapsed two weeks into the New Year, creating confusion among travellers and airlines.

The government had in February last year extended the deadline by 10 months, which was to end in December 2021, locking out Kenyans with the old generation passports from international travel.

Airlines said Tuesday they are still boarding passengers with the old passport as there has been no official communication on the matter.

Kenyans abroad say the embassies are also awaiting communication from the Interior ministry, which has not been forthcoming.

This has created uncertainty among Kenyans who would want to travel back home but are not sure their passports will be accepted at the points of entry.

“We are still accepting passengers in possession of the old passports,” said the Kenya Airways communications office.

Kenya has been phasing out the old-generation passports as part of a binding commitment to migrate to the new East African e-passport.

The government said last year that it had extended the deadline for migrating to the e-passport due to disruptions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i said at the height of the pandemic, the Directorate of Immigration Services scaled down its operations to mitigate the spread of the virus.

However, the minister issued a directive that starting January 1, 2022, the old dark blue passport would be null and void and no Kenyan would travel internationally without a valid East African Community biometric e-passport.

The Business Daily was unable to reach Immigration director-general Alexander Muteshi for comment by press time but an official indicated that the use of the old travel documents had been extended for another 10 months.

Kenya rolled out new chip-embedded passports for its citizens to tame rampant forgery and impersonation of holders. The new features are meant to make it impossible for anyone to forge or duplicate a Kenyan passport.

Roll-out of the e-passports with a 10-year validity period marked the beginning of the end of the ‘analogue’ passports that have been in use since Independence and has joined 60 other countries that use new passports.

The decision to phase out the old generation passport was first made public in April 2015 and the electronic passport was to be launched in December 2016 but has been extended several times over the years.

The shifting deadlines have caused confusion with some foreign consulates announcing they would cease to accept the analogue Kenyan passport, only for the government to give an extension.

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Some of countries had already announced restrictions on Kenyans travelling without the new generation passports include Germany and the Netherlands.

Kenyans living abroad, such as US can apply for passport at the consulate office in Washington DC and they do not need to travel all the way to Kenya for the document.

The government increased stations processing the travel document from two to 12 and recruited, trained and posted immigration attaches in the created stations to expedite the application. Previously there were only two stations abroad-in the UK and US.

Kenyan embassies in Pretoria, South Africa, Dubai in the UAE, Berlin in Germany and Paris, France have been empowered by the government to process the travel documents with eight more stations having been designated to offer the services.

They include Canberra in Canada, New Delhi in India, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Qatar in Gulf, Ottawa Australia, Los Angeles in the United States and Botswana in Southern Africa.