A Complete Guide to Obtain Work Permits in Kenya

Kenya is diligently channelling resources into enhancing its digital infrastructure, fostering a robust digital economy. This strategic focus is supplemented by initiatives aimed at elevating the skill levels of its local workforce. This concerted effort positions Kenya as an attractive destination for international companies seeking to broaden their employee base.

However, an essential aspect of this international collaboration is ensuring legal compliance on both sides. Both international employers and potential employees must verify their legal eligibility for cooperation in a professional setting.

In the forthcoming article, readers will gain insights into the various types of work permits that Kenya offers to foreign nationals intending to relocate for employment purposes. Detailed information will be provided on the specific requirements for obtaining a Kenyan work permit and a step-by-step guide on the application process for a Kenyan work visa. This article aims to equip prospective applicants with the necessary knowledge to successfully navigate the legal framework of working in Kenya.

Table of Contents

  1. What is a Kenya Work Permit?
  2. Types of Work Permits/Visas Offered by Kenya
  3. What is the Validity of Kenyan Work Permits?
  4. Which Kenya Work Permit Should I Apply for Employment?
  5. What is Required to Apply for a Class D Work Permit in Kenya?
  6. Things to be Provided by Kenyan Companies While Hiring a Foreign Talent
  7. How Can You Apply for a Work Permit in Kenya?
  8. Kenya Work Permit Application Fee
  9. Are There Any Other Important Things Regarding Kenya Work Permits?
  10. FAQs

What is a Kenya Work Permit?

A work permit is an official and legal authorisation document granting you the right to actively pursue employment opportunities, secure a job, and legitimately earn a salary in Kenya. This document is a crucial requirement for anyone looking to engage in professional activities and receive compensation in Kenya in full compliance with its legal framework.

Types of Work Permits/Visas Offered by Kenya

In Kenya, the system for regulating work permits is meticulously organised into various classes, each tailored to specific activities a foreign national intends to pursue. These categories are designed to accommodate diverse professional and personal pursuits.

Kenya Work Permit/Visa Type


Class A

This category is specifically for those entering the realms of prospecting and the mining industry. It caters to individuals whose expertise lies in exploring and extracting natural resources.

Class B

Tailored for individuals whose passions or professional interests lie in agriculture or animal husbandry. This permit supports those looking to contribute to Kenya's agricultural landscape.

Class C

Designed for professionals in prescribed fields who intend to practice independently or in a partnership setting within Kenya. This permit addresses the needs of specialised professionals.

Class D

Aimed at individuals who have secured specific employment opportunities. This includes positions with the Kenyan government, governmental authority, the United Nations (U.N.), or other recognised entities. Crucially, this permit is for those possessing skills and qualifications not readily available within Kenya, filling a vital skills gap.

Class F

This permit is designated for individuals looking to be involved in specific manufacturing activities that contribute to Kenya's industrial sector.

Class G

For those aiming to engage in particular trades, businesses, consultancy roles, or professions. This category offers a broad scope for various commercial and professional activities.

Class I

Reserved for individuals engaged in religious or charitable activities, supporting those in the country for altruistic and spiritual purposes.

Class K

This class is for ordinary residents at least 35 years of age and possess a certain annual income derived from sources other than employment catering to a specific demographic.

Class M

Specifically for individuals who have been granted refugee status within Kenya, acknowledging and addressing the unique circumstances of refugees.

What is the Validity of Kenyan Work Permits?

All these work permits are generally valid for two years, with an option for renewal for an additional two-year term. Permit holders have the privilege of renewing their permits unlimited times. However, it is imperative to initiate the renewal process at least three months before the expiration of the current license to ensure continuity and compliance with Kenyan regulations.

Which Kenya Work Permit Should I Apply for Employment?

For individuals seeking a typical work visa, the Class D visa emerges as a preferred choice. This specific visa grants the holder the right to engage in employment activities either with an autonomous organisation or within the various departments of the Kenyan government. 

It is important to note that eligibility for this particular work visa hinges on a critical criterion: the applicant must possess specialised skills or qualifications for a position that the local workforce in Kenya cannot effectively fill. This requirement ensures that the visa is allocated to those with distinct expertise or capabilities not readily available in the local job market.

What is Required to Apply for a Class D Work Permit in Kenya?

As an employer, it's their responsibility to handle the application process for work permits on behalf of their employees. In Kenya, each work permit category necessitates a distinct set of documents. Focusing specifically on the Class D work permit in Kenya, the requirements are as follows:

  • Application Form 25: This form must be completed carefully, ensuring all sections are filled out accurately and signed.
  • Cover Letter: A formal cover letter should be prepared and addressed to the Director General of Immigration Services. This letter can be penned by the employer, the employee, or the representing organisation, and it must bear a signature.
  • National Passport Copy: A clear and current photocopy of the employee's national passport is required.
  • Passport Size Photographs: Two recent, coloured passport-sized photographs must be included in the application.
  • Current Immigration Status (if applicable): If the employee is already in Kenya, their current immigration status must be documented and included.
  • Tax Compliance Certificates: A valid Tax Compliance Certificate of the organisation is necessary for new applications. In cases of renewal, individual Tax Compliance Certificates are also required.
  • Academic and Professional Credentials: Authenticated copies of the employee's educational and professional certificates must be provided.
  • Curriculum Vitae: The employee’s comprehensive Curriculum Vitae, detailing their professional experience and qualifications, should be included.
  • Application Form 27: Similar to Form 25, Form 27 must be diligently filled out and signed.
  • Kenyan Understudy Information: A Kenyan understudy's name and detailed contact information should be provided. This includes email, physical address, and cell phone number.
  • Understudy’s Academic Credentials and CV: Certified copies of the Kenyan understudy’s academic certificates and their full Curriculum Vitae are required.
  • Organization Registration Certificate: A copy of the certificate showing the organisation's registration within Kenya.
  • Clearance Letter from Relevant Institutions: Where applicable, a clearance letter from relevant institutions should be included in the application package.

The employer must gather all these documents meticulously, as each plays a critical role in the work permit application process. Accurate and complete documentation will facilitate a smoother and more efficient application review by the Immigration Services in Kenya.

Things to be Provided by Kenyan Companies While Hiring a Foreign Talent

To comply with the stipulated criteria for employing individuals under a Class D work visa in Kenya, companies must ensure they have engaged a local Kenyan as an "understudy" for the foreign national employee. This understudy is expected to collaborate closely with the foreign employee, acquiring essential skills and knowledge necessary for the job.

For a company to validate the appointment of an understudy, several key documents and details are required:

  • Identification of the Understudy: The full name of the Kenyan understudy should be clearly stated.
  • Detailed Professional Background of the Understudy: Providing a comprehensive resume for the understudy is essential. This resume should outline their relevant work experience, showcasing their journey and suitability for the role they are expected to learn.
  • Accessible Contact Details of the Understudy: The company should provide multiple means of contacting the understudy. This includes their phone number, a physical mailing address, and an email address, ensuring they are easily reachable for any required communication.
  • Verification of the Understudy's Competence: Evidence of their qualifications is necessary to affirm the understudy’s capability to perform the job. This could include, but is not limited to, academic certificates, diplomas, degrees, or any professional licenses they may hold, depending on the nature of the job. This documentation proves that the understudy possesses the required knowledge and skills for the position they are being trained in.

These requirements are fundamental in ensuring that the understudy is adequately prepared to assume the position's responsibilities in the future and align with the objectives of the Class D work visa program in Kenya, which aims to facilitate skill transfer and local workforce development.

How Can You Apply for a Work Permit in Kenya?

The process of obtaining a work permit and an alien registration card in Kenya outlines the following points:

  • Initiating the Work Permit Process: The journey to securing a work permit begins with the applicant submitting a formal application to the Kenyan Department of Immigration. This step is crucial and involves the comprehensive submission of all necessary documents as stipulated by the Department.
  • Review by the Authoritative Committee: Once the application is received, the Department of Immigration forwards it to a specialised committee tasked with evaluating such requests. This committee plays a pivotal role in deciding the outcome of the work permit applications.
  • Timeframe for Decision Making: A work permit's review and approval process takes time. Applicants should anticipate a waiting period between two to six months, during which the committee thoroughly assesses the application.
  • Notification of Outcome: Following the committee's decision, applicants are duly informed about their work permit application status. This communication will clearly state whether the work permit has been approved or rejected.
  • Mandatory Registration for Long-Term Foreign Residents: Foreign nationals intending to reside in Kenya for three months must register as aliens. This process is conducted through the Department of Immigration.
  • Acquiring an Alien Registration Card: The alien registration card, obtained post-registration, serves a function akin to a residence permit. It is a critical document for foreign nationals residing in Kenya.
  • Processing Time for Residence Permits: Applicants should be prepared for a processing duration of two to four months for their residence permit. This timeframe is essential for the Department of Immigration to complete all necessary verifications and approvals.

Kenya Work Permit Application Fee

The cost structure for processing and issuance of a Kenyan work permit is detailed as follows:

  • An initial processing fee is set at KES 10,000. This amount is required to initiate the relevant procedures and is non-refundable.
  • Upon successful processing, an annual issuance fee of KES 200,000 is applicable. This fee is to be renewed yearly for continued service or validity.
  • Notably, East African Community (EAC) members are exempt from these fees. The service is provided gratis for these members, signifying a collaborative and supportive relationship within the community.

Are There Any Other Important Things Regarding Kenya Work Permits?

Yes, you must consider these additional pointers before applying for a Kenyan work permit:

  • Under the provisions set forth by the Citizenship and Immigration Act of Kenya, foreigners are strictly prohibited from entering or engaging in any form of employment within Kenyan borders without possessing a legally sanctioned work permit. 
  • This mandate is rigorously enforced, with significant consequences for non-compliance. 
  • In scenarios where individuals from overseas work in Kenya without the requisite legal documentation, they face immediate deportation. 
  • Employers must understand that the mere submission of a work permit application does not confer the right to begin employment in Kenya. 
  • Legal permission to work is only granted once the relevant Kenyan authorities have thoroughly reviewed and formally approved the application process. 
  • Therefore, employers and potential foreign employees must ensure all necessary legal procedures are fully completed and approved before commencing any work activities in the country.


What are the steps to acquire a work permit in Kenya?

To secure a work permit in Kenya, you should adhere to the following procedure:

  • Register for an eFNS (electronic Foreign Nationals Services) account online.
  • Complete the necessary online application form.
  • Provide all required documents, ensuring your employer also submits theirs.
  • Pay the fee for the electronic application.
  • Await notification regarding the status of your work permit application.

How much does it cost to get a work permit in Kenya?

The cost of a Kenyan work permit varies based on the permit category. For instance:

  • Class D permit: An initial application fee of KES 10,000 ($77) plus an annual fee of KES 200,000 ($1,548).

How long does it typically take to obtain a Kenyan work permit?

The processing time for a Kenyan work permit is flexible and can often extend over several months. It's crucial to apply well in advance, as processing can take up to three months, and any errors or issues may prolong this timeframe.

Can foreigners legally work in Kenya?

Foreign nationals can work in Kenya with the appropriate legal permissions. This requires:

  • Employment with a legally operating entity in Kenya (including self-employment).
  • Possession of a valid work visa.

Note: Once a visa expires without renewal, the individual must cease working, reside in Kenya, and return to their home country.

As a software engineer in the U.S., can I obtain a Kenyan work permit without being in Kenya?

Certainly! The application process can be initiated online. The company in Kenya that intends to hire you must first register with Kenya's eFNS portal and submit the necessary initial documentation. Following this, you should create your eFNS account and complete the relevant application forms for the specific work permit you need.

Is a work permit required for short-term volunteer work in Kenya?

A work permit is necessary if you receive any financial gain from your volunteer work. However, a tourist visa might suffice for purely voluntary, unpaid work, especially for brief periods.

What can I do about the long processing times for Kenyan work permits? I have a job waiting for me.

The processing of work permits in Kenya can indeed take some time. To minimise delays, ensure that all documentation is submitted correctly and promptly by both you and your employer. For more personalised advice, contacting Kenyan immigration officials or a professional visa consultant might be beneficial.

What are my options if my application for a Kenyan work permit is not approved?

In case of a rejection, the Kenyan Immigration Department has an appeal process you can follow. Alternatively, reapplying is also an option after identifying and correcting the issues noted in your initial application.




To obtain a eTA for Kenya

  • Step1: Complete the online application by providing your passport details
  • Step2: Submit payment online using a credit card.
  • Step3: Monitor your email for confirmation of payment and receipt of your eTA, which will be sent electronically.
Get eTA to Kenya

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