Economy

US reverses digital passport visa rule

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A Kenya Airways plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The US Government has assured Kenyans it will continue to issue visas to applicants holding old generation passports “until further notice.”
  • Through its embassy in Nairobi, the US said Kenyans will continue to get visas whether they hold non-digital passports or the machine readable e-passports, reversing an earlier visa application rule.

The US Government has assured Kenyans it will continue to issue visas to applicants holding old generation passports “until further notice.”

Through its embassy in Nairobi, the US said Kenyans will continue to get visas whether they hold non-digital passports or the machine readable e-passports, reversing an earlier visa application rule.

“Visa applicants may apply for a US visa with a non-digital Kenyan passport. We will place a US visa in a non-digital passport until further notice. Holders of current US visas do not need to take any action”, the embassy said on its Twitter handle yesterday.

The decision came just hours after the embassy generated heated debate on social media with its declaration that US visas would only be placed on digital passports. In what it termed as a clarification, the embassy tweeted on Tuesday: “US visa applicants may make an appointment using old Kenyan passport but must have new e-passport before the visa can be issued. Passports must be valid for six months upon entry and non-digital passports expire August 31.”

Nairobi, which now hosts a Category One Airport, had pledged to shift to e-passport issuing system from September 1, 2017 as part of its commitment to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards. The new generation passport seekers are required to submit applications online (on the e-Citizen platform) which are then printed centrally in Nairobi.

The abrupt change caught many Kenyans flat-footed as majority of them who hold old passports that expire on 2022 have not bothered to start applying for the machine-readable documents.

In December, Deputy President William Ruto ordered the extension of old passports phase-out deadline to 2020 after records showed that only 400,000 out of more than 2.5 million Kenyans had managed to acquire the documents.

The State has been preparing its workers for the big switchover, with internal circular seen by Business Daily even indicating that civil servants have been in the know for some weeks now.

“Considering that the machine-readable passport will cease to be a valid travel document with effect from September 1, 2019, any machine-readable passport is already outside the six months validity period,” Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua says in the circular.