Kenyans lax in embracing new e-Passports

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By Glenna Nyamwaya

Kenyans residing in the diaspora now have a sigh of relief following a Presidential

directive to have them issued with the new generation passports in their countries of residence.

President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the directive during his recent state visit to Namibia last month where he ordered the immigration department and the Foreign Affairs ministry to facilitate for the same.

“Form a team that will go from country to country to register Kenyans in the diaspora. No Kenyan should be forced to spend money to travel to Kenya to get passports,” he said at the Windhoek Country Club.

The president was responding to requests by Kenyans at the meeting who raised concerns over the difficulties in acquiring the new document.

Kenyatta’s directive comes as a relief to many Kenyans in the diaspora who had been forced in incur huge expenses traveling back to Nairobi to renew their passports.

Early February, director-general of the department Alex Muteshi said they had put in place mechanisms to enable Kenyans renew and acquire new-generation passports in Paris, Berlin, Washington, London, Dubai and Johannesburg in the next two months.

Earlier, the government postponed plans to outlaw old passports citing poor response to calls for replacement with new ones with electronic features.

Deputy President William Ruto announced the new deadline of 2020 saying that the initial August 31, 2019 cut-off date was not feasible.

This is after a paltry 400,000 passport holders out of over 2.5 million Kenyans managed to renew the travel document.

“The deadline is soon approaching and only a small fraction has managed to upgrade their passports to the new e-Passport,” Ruto said.

Kenyan new generation passport

The Immigration department requires users to submit the online application forms, three copies of the invoices, their original identity card as well as a copy, their old passport and a copy, three passport size photos, and a copy of a recommender ’s ID card.

All these were requirements fulfilled when acquiring the old generation passports and most Kenyans feel is redundancy in the process.

Muteshi, however, insisted that the process has to be followed to ensure compliance with international regulations.

A citizen also requires a recommender, who should be either a lawyer, a religious leader, a doctor, a banker, or a civil servant, a fact that has unsettled many applicants.

“The e-passport will be valid for 10 years and a lot can changes in 10 years, so the recommender update

is necessar y for ever y renewal. As for why those recommenders, we cannot ask you to go a person whose credibility is not known,” Muteshi defended.

“We will have an online portal where applicants can track their passport application and get to know when it’s ready for collection as opposed to coming to queue to find out the status of their application,” Muteshi said.

Meanwhile, there was recent debate in Parliament with Senators calling for the delegation of passport control services to the County level to ensure the crucial document is accessible to Kenyans.

As it is, the document can only be obtained in Nairobi, Mombasa or Kisumu, with legislators wondering why the government would not extend the service across all counties.

The New Generation International East African e-Passport was unveiled in March 2016 during the 17 Ordinary East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit in Arusha, Tanzania.

Analysts had earlier said the long awaited passport would be a major milestone towards achieving harmonization in the region.

The e-passports are expected to help east African citizens ease their movement in the EAC trading bloc.

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