09 January 2018

Work permits, a requirement to maintain my legal status in Kenya as a foreigner

Nyayo House hosts several government departments such as immigration and also serves as the headquarters of Nairobi Province (now Nairobi County). The building, located downtown at the corner of Uhuru Highway and Kenyatta Avenue, has 27 floors. It was built between the years of 1979 - 1983.

Nyayo House is particularly known for its detention facilities in the basement, often called "Nyayo House torture chambers". Many opponents of President Daniel Arap Moi's government (1978 - 2002) were beaten there by the National Security Intelligence Service. Some of the known detainees at Nyayo House were George Anyona, Wahome Mutahi and Raila Odinga.

After Moi's presidency, the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) investigated Nyayo House torture cases. Several victims, including politician Koigi wa Wamwere were compensated. Another detainee, musician Ochieng Kabaselleh, died soon after he was released, allegedly due to injuries caused by torture. Nyayo House is also infamous for the amount for corruption by various state officials.

The word 'nyayo' basically means 'to follow in the footsteps' of Kenya's founding father, President Jomo Kenyatta, and refers to a philosophy that emphasizes peace, love, and unity. Along with the word 'harambee' (to pull together), it was one of President Moi's rallying cries.

For my needs, I use the section for Foreign Nationals

There are often long and unorganized queues, but recently a numbering system was put into place which seems to help things move along in a relatively logical sequence. One simply must be mentally prepared to complete only one step - of the long process - on each visit.

This form is but one of many that has to be filled out in the long-drawn-out process of applying for, or renewing, ones work permit. Much of the process was recently put into an online format, theoretically for a more stream-lined process. However, the website is often down... sometimes for days at a time! It still requires many confusing steps and many trips to Nyayo House. It costs $50 per year, plus a $10 filing fee, and a 4-year security bond at $25 per year.

The image above is the printout of my recently approved work permit for another three years! They can be given for one, two, or three years.

Work Permits are issued to any non-Kenyan wishing to engage in gainful employment or voluntary service in Kenya. The Work Permits issued by the Department of Immigration are classified from A-M and are issued under Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act 2011 of Laws of Kenya. My work permit used to be Class E, but is now Class I.

Class I.
Work/Residence permit issued to a member of missionary society approved by the Government of Kenya and whose presence is beneficial to the country.

Class I Requirements.
◦A copy of registration certificate of the organization.
◦Academic and professional certificates of the applicant.
◦Processing Fee Kshs.1,000 non-refundable.
◦Fee is Kshs. 5,000/= per year or part thereof.

Eventually the work permit is hand-written and signed in my passport, with a stamped date. Now matter when I finish the process, mine are always dated for May 13th. So, even though this one wasn't approved until November 3rd, it will expire three years from May 13, 2017.

The next step is to apply for an alien card, now called a foreigner certificate. It acts as my ID in Kenya. The one pictured has expired; my more current one was stolen when I was pick-pocketed.

Even though a work permit can be issued for three years, an alien card expires after 1-2 years. Each time it's renewed, all ten of our fingers have to inked for 20 recorded fingerprints (each finger twice!). It takes a minimum of 6-8 weeks for the card to be ready, so in the meantime I walk around with a copy of my 'waiting card'. I hope to find it ready when I check on it next week!

- - - -
At one step in the process for this current work permit, I was sent upstairs to the fifth floor. Once there I was given a complete run-around and sent from one office to another, each one with apathetic clerks in dreary rooms full of piles and piles of files. But I knew better than to get upset or impatient... so I played their game until I was finally given the documents I needed.

This was my sixth time to 'jump through all the hoops'... I guess I'm getting used to it!

This is what I wrote in July 2008 -
  • I got my work permit, re-entry pass, and alien card renewed. The hassles of Kenyan-style bureaucracy completely defy description! The best (and actually only) approach is to just patiently and politely go through each and every step, jumping through the hoops one at a time.

“The obtaining of official government documents such as visas, entry permits, work permits, or resident cards can be a drawn-out process. It isn’t unusual for government officials to drag out these processes intentionally, knowing that, as a foreigner, you have no recourse. As foreigners, we do not have the right to expedition of services.” (ex: Genesis 23:1-19, Abraham Needing a Favor in a Foreign Land, ch. 6)
   ~ Marvin Newell, Crossing Cultures in Scripture 


Dave said...

I used to take care of the government work for our NTM workers in Thailand. I do not have fond memories of that time! There were times when, by the time a work permit was issued, there were only a couple of months left on the visa...

Answering the Call said...

I have begun seeing these excursions as adventures...ones in which I can actually have fun...that helps!

Anonymous said...

Dave, I can't imagine doing it for others. Taking care of my own work permits and aliens cards is quite enough for me!

Answering the Call, good approach!