The process of getting a work permit in Kenya


Bob Paterson, a Canadian national, has lived in Kenya for 17 years. During that time, he has acquired eight work permits in Kenya.  The first three permits were as an employee of a multi-national based in Kenya, and the last five were as an individual investor. The company he worked for was sold and he decided to retire and to live and work in Kenya. He shares his experience getting a work permit.

Over the course of getting these five work permits, there have been lots of issues and some significant improvements in the processing.  It used to be a very manual system with filling out applications and handing them in along with a lot of documentation at Nyayo House and then having to go down to immigration and see if there was any progress.

Now, it is much more automated and if my recent experience is any indication, a lot faster. In fact it took only 12 calendar days from the time I submitted all the paperwork (yes you still need a host of documentation) to get a work permit approved.  From approval to getting the actual permit only took another 12 calendar days, two of which were the delay in getting my payment for the work permit recorded in my file.

So, what is the process?

  1. Register on e-Citizen.  To register with e-citizen you go to

This is the web site that handles just about all interaction with the government from renewing your driver’s license to getting a Kenyan passport.

Create an account.

It used to be a very manual system with filling out applications and handing them in along with a lot of documentation at Nyayo House and then having to go down to immigration and see if there was any progress. Now, it is much more automated.

Create an Account as a Foreign Resident

In many of the subsequent steps will also require you to have an electronic photo of yourself. You also need a number of hard copy passport size photos for other parts of the application.

In the next steps you need to enter your Alien Registration number and your first name. It will then ask for your e-mail address and the system will send you an e-mail which you must verify. You then provide your phone number and the system will send you a text message that you also need to verify. It will then ask you for a photo so you need to have an electronic photo of yourself. In many of the subsequent steps will also require you to have an electronic photo of yourself. You also need a number of hard copy passport size photos for other parts of the application.

Once that is completed then you now have an eCitizen account

2. The next step is to apply for the appropriate work permit. This is done via the Foreign National Service (eFNS) portal.

Here you click on Apply.


You then sign into eFNS with your ecitizen ID (your email address) and the password you created in the previous eCitizen sign up.

You will then be asked if eFNS can access your basic information from eCitizen. You click allow.


This is now where you start the real process of applying for a work permit. You start with Submit Applications.


In the Summit Applications it lists a lot of different applications you can complete. The work permit one is the first one.

The next screen gives you the list of permits (7 of them) that you can apply for. Click the Learn More button and it will show you the requirements for the permit and the documentation that you need to submit with your application.

It is a good idea to print out this page so you can them ensure that you have all the documentation (which needs to accompany a print out of your on-line application).  There is a processing fee of KSh 10,000 for all applications along with a convenience fee of KSh 50 (while it is convenient to do this online, there really isn’t any other choice for the KSh 50 isn’t so much for convenience as just another way for the government to get some extra money).

Once you have the print out of requirements, you then hit the apply button.  That brings up the application form that you need to complete. After you complete your application, you can review and/or print it.  You also have to add an electronic picture of yourself. Be sure to print out a copy of your application as it needs to be submitted in hard copy at Nyayo House.

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After your application has been submitted electronically and it has been registered, you now need to pay for the application. Go to the payment icon (on the dashboard) and click Invoices and Payments.  You will see your application with a note indicating that it is not paid. Click the payment icon under the Action column and a payment screen will appear.

You can pay for the application in a variety of ways, Equitel, Mpesa, bank transfer, Credit/Debit card and RTGS.  A couple of things to note. Bank transfer is only available from certain banks. Check your bank is listed. If you use a Credit/Debit Card there is a 3% premium charged. This is true even if you are using a debit card where there is no added cost to the government. The advantage of using a credit card is that it is immediate. If you use RTGS, you have to wait for it to be processed at the government end.

Once your application has been paid for, you have to take a hard copy of your application and all the required documentation and a copy of your receipt of payment for the application to Immigration at Nyayo House. You queue at Counter 8 and submit your documents. You don’t get a receipt there but they process it and give you an electronic receipt in your eFNS account.

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When your application is finally approved you get an e-mail from eFNS.  You then have to pay for the work permit. The process is the same as for the application but obviously using a credit card is more expensive. RTGS works but it takes about two days to be reflected.

After paying, you need to take the receipt of payment along with two copies of an insurance bond to Nyayo House and a copy of the receipt for the bond and hand them to the Cashier. It then takes between five and 10 calendar days for your permit to be ready. You then need to go back to Nyayo House to Room 16 to pick up the permit.

You can then go and get your Re-entry permit (allows you to enter Kenya without a Visa).  If you have dependents you should fill out the Dependents application in eFNS and pay for the KSh 2000 (plus Ksh 50 of course).  You will also need an Alien Card for yourself and your dependents. You apply for that using eFNS as well. You need to take these applications and receipts of payment to Nyayo House. If you forget to make one of the applications online then you have to do that and return to Nyayo House. Submitting and paying for the Dependent Re-entry pass and the Alien Card registration prior to going to pick up your permit will save you at least one extra trip to Immigration.

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The Alien Card registration requires you to submit the application (which you do online), two passport pictures, your receipt for payment a copy of your current alien registration card and a copy of your work permit. For dependents, you need the application, the payment receipt, a copy of your alien card, a copy of your reentry permit from your passport and a copy of the principles work permit (the website doesn’t mention a few of these but if you don’t have all of this then you can’t get to the next process.

You start with Counter 4 (don’t forget to get a ticket for Registration when you enter) after it has been checked you then hand it in at Counter 3. They will then call your name and you will then be fingerprinted in Room 15. Depending on how many folks are, then this can take some time. I have found that getting there before 8:30am reduces the wait time considerably. The actual production of the Alien Card takes about eight weeks. You are given a receipt and anyone can pick them up for you when they are ready.

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While this seems cumbersome it really isn’t. Versus the old system this is much more efficient and rather than having to go to Immigration 5-7 times, this system only requires four visits (submit your application, submit your payment and bond, pick up your permit and get your Re-entry permits, and submit your application for your Alien cards and finally picking up your Alien card.

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