Kenya’s passport retains top position in East Africa

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023 01:00 | By
Kenyans abroad unable to get e-passports, risk being stranded
Kenyans queue outside Immigration offices at Nyayo House in Nairobi, seeking to acquire passports. PD/FILE

Kenya has retained its position as the country with the strongest passport in East Africa, placing seventh on the continent in the latest global passport ranking.

An Henley Passport Index Report for this year’s first quarter says Kenya is ranked 71st globally, rising from position 76 in last year’s report and tying with Indonesia.

The country has a visa free score of 72, which means that Kenyans can travel to 72 destinations worldwide without a visa, or secure a visa, visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA) on arrival.

The Henley Passport Index compares the visa-free access of 199 different passports to 227 travel destinations across the world, ranking each destination according to its visa requirements.

The index relies on exclusive International Air Transport Authority (IATA) data spanning 18 years, and is updated quarterly.

Tanzania followed Kenya closely with a global ranking of 72 and a visa-free score of 71, sharing its position with Tunisia, while Uganda trailed at position 77.

Japan leads

Last week, President Kais Saied of Tunisia stirred an uproar after calling for action against sub-Saharan immigrants, whom he claimed were behind an upsurge in crime and a plot to reconstitute Tunisia’s demographics.

The remarks sparked public protests and triggered attacks against African immigrants, many of whom reported being discriminated against in the country.

The Seychelles archipelago famed for its pristine beaches ranked first in Africa while placing 29th globally with a visa-free score of 153.

Japan’s passport maintained its position as the most powerful globally, with Singapore rising one place to tie in first position with a visa free score of 193.

South Korea came in second, while Germany and Spain tied in third place.

The US and Europe have drawn heavy criticism from Kenyans for their restrictive visa regime, which many perceive as disproportionately restrictive and punitive to travelers from the global south.

Student visas

Following complaints about waiting periods and costs, the US embassy in Nairobi announced a raft of measures to facilitate the visa application process.

The US embassy updated its webpage, insisting that visa application fees are non-refundable, and dispensed with the requirement for in-person interviews for Kenyans renewing BI/B2 visitor visas or student visas that expired less than a year before the application date.

The embassy also introduced expedited appointments for emergency situations that include the death of an immediate family member, urgent medical care and students whose programmes start within 30 days and who are at risk of losing their scholarships or suffering irreparable harm.

In January, the United Kingdom announced a reduction, in the previously months-long waiting period for visa applicants travelling to Britain, to three weeks.

In November last year, President William Ruto and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa signed an agreement that allows Kenyans to visit South Africa visa-free for up to 90 days in a calendar year.

The agreement ended a long-standing controversy caused by a lack of reciprocation from South Africa, which required Kenyans to pay visa charges and provide proof of sufficient funds, while South Africans obtained free visas on arrival in Kenya.

Earlier this month, Ruto also held bilateral talks with his Eritrean counterpart Isaias Afwerki and subsequently scrapped visa requirements for citizens of both countries with a view to furthering regional integration and enhancing trade.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki recently issued a directive that all passport applications should be processed within 21 days, assuring Kenyans that delays in passport printing had been resolved.

The delays at the State Department for Citizen Services were said to have been caused by the breakdown of a passport printing machine that has since been replaced.

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