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State halts travel for officers without digital passports

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The new electronic passports. PHOTO | COURTESY

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Summary

  • The order means that public servants who had planned to travel abroad in the next few weeks could be forced to reschedule or abandon such plans unless they acquire the new document.
  • The e-passports are designed to better protect national borders and identities of citizens. They have the latest security features and designs besides a new style polycarbonate bio-data page.
  • Kenya launched its e-passports in 2017, making it the first country in the East African Community (EAC) to do so.

The government has frozen travel for civil servants without the digital passport, citing hitches in processing visa and entry permits using the machine-readable ones which become invalid in less than four months.

Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua said that although entry and exit requirements varied from country to country, the general rule is that a passport should be valid for at least another six months at the time of travel.

“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,” Mr Kinyua said in an April 15 circular seen by the Business Daily.

“To avoid inconveniences that may be occasioned on account of the limited validity period of the machine-readable passports and in observance of the above-mentioned circular, travel clearance should not be issued to officers who do not hold the e-passport” the circular says.

The order means that public servants who had planned to travel abroad in the next few weeks could be forced to reschedule or abandon such plans unless they acquire the new document.

The e-passports are designed to better protect national borders and identities of citizens. They have the latest security features and designs besides a new style polycarbonate bio-data page.

First EAC country

Kenya launched its e-passports in 2017, making it the first country in the East African Community (EAC) to do so.

This saw the country comply with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) specifications and additional requirements set by EAC members.

E-passports have an embedded electronic chip in the booklet that stores the biographical information visible on page 2 of the document, as well as a digital security feature, according to ICAO.

The digital security feature is a unique, country specific "digital signature" which can be verified using each nation’s respective certificate.

The government says the new passport is harder to duplicate and helps to counter threats from criminals such as terrorists and human traffickers.

The e-passport system was installed by British security printer De La Rue.

The Department of Immigration said in February it would open new digital passports issuance points across the country and abroad to ease congestion at the Nyayo House, Nairobi, centre.

The director-general of the department, Alex Muteshi, said additional centres would be opened in Kisumu, Mombasa, Kisii, Nakuru, Embu and Eldoret as well as the US and the United Arabs Emirates — making it the first time the issuance of digital passports will be decentralised since they were launched in 2017.

The digital passport eliminates the need for an East African passport.

Single passport

The African Union unveiled details of the design, production and issuance of a single African passport last week.

The AU hopes to reduce travel barriers by creating seamless borders across the continent.

African leaders started using a common passport in July 2016.

The idea of an African passport was raised on numerous occasions during AU summits but implementation by member States has been sluggish.