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Kenya Criticised Over Implementation of “Complicated” Visa-Free Policy

Kenya’s government has been facing some backlash following the implementation of its visa-free entry policy last week, with many calling new guidelines for the policy as “hectic” and “confusing”.

Authorities in the East African nation following the removal of visa restrictions announced by President Ruto last year, have replaced traditional visas with an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system.

Per the new rules, travellers entering Kenya would have to apply online by submitting documents, pay a $34 processing fee, and wait three days for travel authorization.

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Unlike traditional visas with multi-year validity, the ETA is only valid for a single trip. And therefore, travellers would have to obtain a new ETA each time they visit the country.

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Read also: Rwanda, Kenya Announce Visa-Free Entry for All Africans

Except for some countries in the East African Community, the requirement applies to about 46 other nationalities who previously had unrestricted access to Kenya.

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Critics have described the process as “hectic”, saying it works no different from a visa, and that it would rather increase the difficulty and cost of travelling to Kenya.

“Until 24 hours ago, as a Malawian, I could just wake up, buy a ticket and fly to Kenya in the afternoon, visa-free. Now, Kenya has ‘removed visa’ for everyone, but everyone has to pay a $30 travel authorization fee 72 hours before travel. What? Hectic,” said Malawian entrepreneur Jones Ntaukira on X (formerly Twitter).

Despite the seeming backlash, Kenyan authorities say it’s received a boom in ETA applications. According to the country’s Immigration department, it received around 32,000 applications from foreigners as of Thursday, January 11. That figure translates to about USD 1 million in financial gains.

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