Difficulties arise for Ethiopian travelers following Kenya’s visa waiver implementation

By Muluken Yewondwossen

The recent introduction of a visa waiver for Ethiopian travelers visiting Kenya has resulted in difficulties and changes in the entry process. The Ethiopian government is currently evaluating the situation.

Since Saturday, January 6th, Ethiopian visitors to Kenya have been experiencing a new and different process compared to before. According to the agreement between the two countries, Ethiopian travelers are not required to obtain a visa to enter Kenya. However, as of last week, Ethiopian travelers have encountered new incidents upon arrival in Kenya.

Travelers have expressed their frustration about the requirement to fill out extensive online paperwork upon arrival and the need to make electronic payments instead of using cash. At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, one passenger shared their experience of being asked for an International Certificate of Vaccination against Yellow Fever, despite being a frequent traveler to the country.

The visa waiver program, which Kenya implemented on January 1st, officially took effect for flights departing from Ethiopia on Saturday, January 6th. The program includes waiving business and tourist visas for all nationalities and eliminating the need for electronic travel authorizations (ETAs) for citizens of the East African Community (EAC).

Under the new scheme, starting from January 1, 2024, foreign nationals, regardless of their country of origin, can enter Kenya for business or tourism purposes without a visa for stays of up to 90 days. However, all foreign nationals are required to obtain an ETA online in advance of their trip, with a fee of USD 30.

Passengers from Ethiopia are facing unforeseen challenges due to the new system. They are required to stay at the airport to fill out a digital form using their mobile devices, provide certain documents that they may not have readily available, and make the necessary payment online. Owning digital foreign currency is uncommon among Ethiopians, making it difficult for them to meet these requirements at the border when arriving in Kenyan airports.

The Ethiopian embassy in Kenya is actively assessing the situation, and officials in Addis Ababa are monitoring it closely. However, further information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently unavailable.

Kenya’s new ETA system requires travelers to provide a valid passport with at least six months of validity remaining and one blank page, proof of hotel reservation, and personal information. Additional documentation, such as proof of financial resources and return ticket confirmation, may be required for certain travelers. Business visitors must provide official government registration documents of their company and an invitation letter from the host company.

ETAs are becoming a common requirement worldwide in countries that have visa exemptions as a means for governments to track and monitor the entry and exit of visa-exempt travelers.

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