Kenya exempts Ethiopia, South Africa from e-travel authorisation fees

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Kenya has begun twitching its online visitor registration service that policymakers wanted to use to ease travel into the country, but which saw some countries complain of high charges.

And now, the Department of Immigration and Citizen Services says citizens from Ethiopia and five other countries will not be required to pay the $30 per traveller charged when visitors apply to come to Kenya.

The fee is often paid online via the portal www.etakenya.go.ke after the government launched the Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) in January. According to the department, citizens from the Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville, Eritrea, Mozambique, San Marino and South Africa will also no longer be charged when filing for eTA applications.

The department said these are “countries which had concluded visa abolitions agreement or signed bilateral visa waiver agreements with the Republic of Kenya.”

The five had signed visa exemption deals in the last one year. Their exemption from eTA began on February 15, Immigration said in response to a Business Daily inquiry on Wednesday.

Bacha Debele, the Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya had on Monday told Ethiopian nationals wishing to travel to Kenya to file free applications for ETA, which remains mandatory.

“My heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the Government of Kenya for its prompt response and kind decision to remove Ethiopian citizens from Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) related electronic payment requirement,” he said.

“We kindly inform our citizens that they can enter Kenya without any requirement for visa and its related payment, but the requirement to fill eTA form online before arrival, remains mandatory.”

Ethiopia is among the earliest countries to sign visa exemption pacts with Nairobi, with its agreements being in place for the last five decades. But while Kenyans only need valid passports to travel to Ethiopia, Ethiopians had been, for the last two months, required to pay $30 for ETA applied for at least 72 hours before arrival.

The system has generated complaints, especially from countries that routinely do not demand visas from Kenya. The new changes are part of ongoing consultations with foreign partners to improve it, a source told the Business Daily on Wednesday but gave no timelines on when the review will be completed.

While it was launched to ease travel and visa application processes, critics argued the $30 fee is a visa by another name.

Immigration said applications for eTA will still be pegged 72 hours before arrival.

“An Issued eTA is valid for travel to Kenya within 90 days from the date of issue.”

However, it may face another question from critics who say the eTA application is not flexible, especially if one adjusts travel times or needs emergency travel.

As it is, East African Community member states will be exempt from applying for ETA and can travel as long as they have valid passports or national identification.

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