Work permits issuance jump 25pc as expats return to Nairobi


Expatriates working for Kenya Airways arrive to check in at the Stanley Hotel. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG

Work permits issued to foreigners increased by 25.3 percent last year following a rebound in the job market after the relaxation of restrictive Covid-19 measures.

The Immigration Department issued 7,332 new work permits to foreign nationals in 2021 from 5,851 issued in 2020, representing a 1,481 increase.

This was the highest rise since 2017 when 2,515 new expat jobs were created to 8366 from the previous year.

This follows eased measures and resumption of international travel over the year boosting business activities in sectors such as manufacturing, transport and storage as well as accommodation and food services.

The jump has also been linked to the country’s shift from a manual to an online visa system on January 1, 2021, in line with a policy to digitise service delivery and increase revenue collection by reducing the waiting days.

Work permits renewed increased marginally to 11,973 from 11,395 in 2020. Registration of foreign nationals increased by 29.8 percent to 24,713 in 2021.

“Work permits issued and work permits renewed increased by 25.3 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively during the review period mainly due to the full online processing introduced in 2021,” Economic Survey 2022 stated.

The 7,332 permits in the year were however less than those in the five years to 2021, and a high of 9,465 permits issued in 2018.

Cancellation of flights and reduced revenues in most firms in 2020 saw work permits issued drop by 34.7 percent or 3,116 to 5,851 from 2019 as companies resorted to a freeze in fresh hiring.

The increase in 2021 however follows an expansion in jobs created in both the formal and informal sectors as the economy continued to adapt to the fallout of the pandemic.

A total of 926,100 jobs were added in the formal and informal sectors last year, the highest since 2015 when 929,000 employment opportunities were created.

Employment was recorded in sectors including accommodation and food and services, education, arts and entertainment and professionals and technical activities.

The number of passports issued increased by 24.8 percent to 273,328 in 2021 from 219,090 in 2020. This was attributed to an increase in the number of people to be served per day (appointments) to 1,000 in 2021 from 300 in 2020.

Kenya last year scrapped work visa and permit requirements for Tanzanian nationals in an effort to boost trade and tourism between the two countries.

The Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest) also announced plans to clear timelines set for approval of work permits for foreign investors to enable better planning for firms setting up locally.

KenInvest said a time-bound work permit approval framework is part of a draft legal change the investment promotion agency is writing for consideration by the Interior Ministry and the Treasury.

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