Visas and Work Permits 8 min

Work permits and visas in Kenya: an employer’s guide

Written by Sally Flaxman
Sally Flaxman

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With its lush savannas, stunning scenery, and iconic wildlife, the East African nation of Kenya is one of the premier tourist destinations across the entire continent. Kenya is also a popular destination for remote workers and “digital nomads.”  

All foreign workers will need a specific type of work visa to work in the country and must remain in compliance with Kenyan laws. Companies looking to hire or relocate workers to Kenya may face legal and bureaucratic hassles when trying to navigate the appropriate visas, immigration documents, and tax laws.

The easiest way to hire or relocate an employee to Kenya, is via an employer of record (EOR) like Remote. From expert knowledge of labor, immigration, and tax laws to ensuring compliance with local regulations, an EOR can help you hire internationally quickly and easily. 

This article will help you understand work visa requirements and work permits in Kenya. We also explain how using an EOR makes it easy to hire employees abroad. 

Which workers need a right-to-work check in Kenya?

Kenyan law does not require specific right-to-work checks for new employees starting new positions. Companies can usually hire Kenyan citizens living in Kenya without needing to go through additional checks or visa applications. 

When it comes to non-citizens living in Kenya, Kenyan law proscribes specific types of work visas that provide legal work authorization. The type of visa that a foreign worker will receive depends on the specific work they will be doing in Kenya. 

Do non-citizens need a work permit or work visa in Kenya?

All non-citizens who wish to work in Kenya will need a specific work visa under Kenyan law. As stated before, Kenya has different types of work visas for various workers and industries. Each Kenya work visa is designated by a specific letter. 

Class A visas

Kenyan Class A visas are specific to foreign workers who will be working in the mining or mineral industry while in Kenya.

Class B visas

Kenyan Class B visas are specific to foreign workers coming to Kenya to work in agriculture or animal husbandry. Applicants for a Class B visa will generally need to have a lease on land in Kenya and authorization from relevant Kenyan government bodies. 

Class C visas

Kenyan Class C visas are designated for foreign nationals who are traveling to Kenya to practice a specific prescribed profession. Professions that fall under this category include doctors, attorneys, engineers, architects, and accountants. Applicants for this type of visa can generally practice their profession either alone or as part of a partnership.

Class D visas

Kenyan Class D visas are for foreign nationals who are going to reside in Kenya to work for a specific employer with the Kenyan government, the United Nations, or another approved agency. For a Class D application to be successful, applicants usually have to show that they possess skills or qualifications for the job that are not widely available among Kenyan citizens.

Class F visas

Kenyan Class F visas are for foreign nationals who are going to reside in Kenya to work in the manufacturing industry. 

Class G visas

Kenyan Class G visas are for foreign nationals working in a specific trade, business, or consultancy. 

Class I visas

Kenyan Class I visas are for foreign nationals who are coming to Kenya to work with an approved religious or charitable organization. 

Class K visas

Kenyan Class K visas are for foreign nationals who have a reliable income from a source other than full-time employment or a source outside of Kenya.

Class M visas

Kenyan Class M visas are for those who are coming to Kenya to work with refugees. 

Kenya special pass

In addition to these specific types of work visas, the Kenyan government also issues “special passes” to certain foreign nationals who are looking to work in Kenya short-term. These special passes have more open qualifications, but applicants must already have an employment offer in Kenya, and generally must demonstrate that they have specialized skills or qualifications that are unavailable in Kenya at the time of application. Applicants might also have to demonstrate that their work in Kenya would provide a benefit to the country that it would not get otherwise. 

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What are the eligibility requirements for a work visa in Kenya?

The exact eligibility requirements for non-citizens in Kenya will vary depending on what visa they are applying to. In general, all applicants must demonstrate sufficient income and employment during their stay in Kenya. For employees applying for visas in specific industries, they must demonstrate a preexisting employment offer in that industry in Kenya. 

For example, if an applicant is applying for a Class A visa, they must have an existing employment offer with a mining company or operation in Kenya. In some cases, applicants must demonstrate that they possess unique skills and qualifications that cannot be easily found within the Kenyan population. 

What are the long-stay visa types in Kenya?

In addition to the aforementioned work visas, Kenya has a few other types of long-term stay visas that may be relevant to some remote workers or digital nomads. 

Student’s pass

If a foreign student is accepted into an academic institution in Kenya, they can apply for a Student’s Pass to legally reside in Kenya during their studies. 

Dependent’s pass

Dependents of foreign nationals living in Kenya under another type of visa can attain a Dependent’s Pass during their stay in Kenya. 

Internship/research pass

Foreign nationals who are accepted into an internship or research position with a Kenyan institution can apply for an Internship/Research pass to cover the course of their program or research fellowship. 

How do you get a work visa for Kenya?

All applications for Kenya work permits and work visas will be completed online through the Kenyan Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, alongside the Kenyan Directorate of Immigration Services. Applicants can find the relevant application forms on the Kenyan government’s website. 

Kenya work visa requirements

The specific components of the visa application will vary somewhat depending on which visa you are applying for. But in general, all applications must include:

  • A completed application form

  • A valid passport

  • Two passport-sized photos

  • Travel itinerary information 

  • Proof of employment in Kenya

  • Proof of income

  • Receipt for payment of application fees

Depending on the specific visa, applicants may also need to provide academic qualifications, proof of employment, expertise in a specific industry, proof of acceptance into a Kenyan academic institution, or a marriage certificate proving married status with another visa applicant. Generally speaking, the processing time for all applications can take around three months. 

What is the process for employee work visa sponsorship in Kenya?

For most Kenyan work visas, employers will need to provide a work sponsorship or confirmation of employment before the application. If your company does not have a legal presence in Kenya, you may have a harder time getting your employee approved for a specific work visa. In these cases, using an EOR can help mitigate any visa problems that result. 

How Remote makes compliance in Kenya so much easier

The processes involved in global hiring and employee relocation are stressful for both employers and employees. Given the number of visa options and the legal difficulties in getting approved for a work visa, it can be challenging to employ employees in Kenya.

Companies looking to relocate employees to a country like Kenya can put themselves in financial or legal jeopardy if their employees do not have the proper Kenya work visas and permits. Using Remote can help you hire employees abroad with ease and confidence. Our employment experts are experienced in immigration law, tax practices, and legal compliance. If you partner with Remote, you don’t have to worry about onboarding, benefits, taxes, and payroll because our global HR platform will handle all of that and more! 

Remote’s relocation guide can help you navigate all of these issues when relocating employees to a country like Kenya. Or contact our Mobility experts if you have questions about how to handle international employee relocation.

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