A new agreement has been signed between Kenya and the United States increasing visa validity period for Kenyans travelling to the US to five years.
This will be welcome news to students, temporary visitors, business people and tourists travelling to the US as they have been hitherto restricted to a one year visa period.
The memorandum of understanding (MoU) allowing a visa duration was among four separate agreements signed on Friday between the two countries aimed at deepening bilateral relations.
The agreements were signed between Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ms Amina Mohamed and US Secretary of Commerce Ms Penny Pritzker.
The extension of Visa validity period has been among the leading concerns from Kenyans who had appealed for a consideration between the two governments.
The two countries also signed pacts on infrastructure development and health during a ceremony at Harambee House.
In attendance was US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec and Head of Public Service Mr Joseph Kinyua.
The Security Governance Initiative - Joint Country Action Plan relates to better border management, enhanced capacities for police human resource management and effective administration of justice in Kenya.
Another MOU concerns the development and implementation of strategic infrastructure priority projects in Kenya to allow for development of strategic projects, including the Lapsset among others.
The two countries also signed the Co-operation in Threat Reduction Biological Engagement Programs Agreement aimed at facilitating efforts to reduce threat from naturally occurring diseases, biological attacks or ‘unintentional release of biological pathogens and toxins and the risks posed by non-state actors of bioterrorism.’
The programme will consist of mutually agreed projects relating to potential biological threats, including naturally occurring diseases, biological attacks or unintentional release of pathogens or toxins and biological weapons-related pathogens and toxins, materials, processes and knowledge.
The areas of cooperation under the agreement will include implementation of a comprehensive, sustainable and legally entrenched national programme for biosafety and biosecurity among others.
The two countries also hope to strengthen their economic ties through this agreement as relates to the potential it holds in the enhancement of trade relations between them with more diversification expected from Kenyans in their exports and travel to the US to do business.
Ms Mohamed termed the visa regime timely, saying American businessmen and women will be able to use it to expand their businesses and exploit the opportunities opening up in Africa through Kenya.
However, the two counties are cautious about this particular agreement, as pertains the possibility of bad elements filtering through.
According to Ms Mohamed, both countries have, therefore, mutually agreed to independently vet prospective travellers.