- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Kenya Guide (PDF)
Whether visiting on vacation or looking to settle down for the long term, most travellers will require a visa to enter Kenya. The type of visa one acquires will depend on their reasons for being in the country.
Countries such as South Africa, Zambia and Botswana don't need to apply for short-term visas, and expats can check the eVisa website for a full list of countries exempted from or eligible to apply for a visa to Kenya.
There are three main options for getting a visa:
- Obtaining a visa upon entering the country
- Applying for an eVisa online at least seven days before departing
- Applying in person at a Kenyan diplomatic mission or embassy
The latter is not recommended for tourist visas as it takes more time and effort than the other options, which are quick, easy and convenient. The eVisa process is best for short stays, though long-term stays and work permits are best done by contacting the nearest high commission or embassy.
For temporary visits to Kenya, there are three main types of eVisas: single-entry visas, transit visas and courtesy visas. Single-entry visas include visas for tourists, medical reasons, business visits and family visits.
Transit visas are only necessary for visitors who have a connecting flight from Kenya to another country within 72 hours and wish to leave the airport. Diplomatic, official and service passport holders will be issued a free courtesy visa to Kenya, provided they hold an official letter documenting their affairs.
Before travelling, we recommend that expats check the required pre-travel vaccinations, including against yellow fever, and other healthcare matters.
Tourist visas for Kenya
Most foreigners require a tourist visa to visit Kenya, though citizens of select countries are allowed visa-free entry.
Tourist visas are a type of single-entry visa for Kenya. They are valid for three months before travel and may be extended for another three months (90 days). Visitors must normally apply for renewal at the immigration headquarters in Nairobi.
Tourist visas for Kenya generally require a travel itinerary detailing the places to be visited, any hotel bookings or proof of accommodation, a valid passport and a return ticket.
Business visas for Kenya
Similar to tourist visas, business visas are valid for 90 days, with a possible 90-day extension. These are suitable for expats who only plan on staying a few months in the country. Documentation proving the purpose of business must be provided, such as an invitation letter from the appropriate company.
Family visit visas for Kenya
The third type of single-entry visa for Kenya is one for family members. Expats who wish to invite or host family members to join them for a few months can investigate this option. Under this particular type of family visit visa, only one entry is allowed and necessary letters of invitation and visas of the host must be supplied.
Work and residence permits for Kenya
Any non-Kenyan wishing to remain in the country for longer than six months must obtain what is known as a Work/Residence Permit before arriving in Kenya.
There are multiple classes and categories of work permits and residency options. Expats applying solo will need to do extensive research to find out which class is suitable to them. We recommend contacting the nearest embassy for the most up-to-date information. Additionally, what takes the weight off one’s shoulders is hiring a relocation company to handle the visa, work permit and immigration affairs.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
►Want to work in Kenya? Learn more about the job market on the Expat Arrivals Working in Kenya page
"Tourist visa is easily accessible on arrival. When I came first I was hired by a big company which arranged all the work permit procedures..." Read our interview with Asia for more on visas and arranging a work permit with and without the help of a company.
Are you an expat living in Kenya?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Kenya. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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