Kenya eVisa or ETA? Which One to Obtain for the Trip

Kenya replaced the eVisa with ETA system in January 2024. Find out more about recent changes in Kenyan visa policy.
APPLY FOR KENYA VISA ONLINEAPPLY FOR KENYA VISA ONLINE

In December 2023, the Kenyan government announced a historic decision to lift visa requirements for travelers from all over the world.

Since then, visitors to Kenya no longer need to apply for a visa before arriving. Therefore, Kenya has become the first African country to be visa-free for all nationalities. 

However, lifting visa requirements does not mean that entry to Kenya requires no documents whatsoever. Instead of a previously existing single-entry visa, international visitors must now complete an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA).

In this blog post, we will explain more about the recently introduced Kenya ETA system to dispel any doubts that may arise before your trip to Kenya. 

How to apply for an ETA before traveling to Kenya

Since January 2024, completing the ETA before arriving in Kenya has been mandatory for all international travelers. The Electronic Travel Authorization is a semi-automated online system that confirms a visitor's eligibility to enter Kenya. 

Previously, minors up to 16 years of age were exempt from Kenya visa requirements. The Kenyan ETA, however, must be completed by travelers of all ages, including children and infants

All travelers are advised to submit the ETA application at least 3 days (and up to 3 months) before the planned departure.

The approved electronic permit allows for only one entry to Kenya and covers the specific flight and date specified in the online application form.

A holder of a valid ETA for Kenya can stay in the country for up to 90 days.   

Requirements

Applicants for Kenyan ETA must meet a few requirements, including: 

  • passport with the validity extending beyond 6 months from the intended date of arrival in Kenya; it should have at least one blank page
  • selfie/passport photo that must be uploaded online
  • contact details (email address, phone number)
  • travel information (arrival and departure details)
  • confirmation of accommodation booking
  • access to a valid method of online payment  

Additionally, travelers staying at personal hosts, not hotels, will need to provide the host's passport number (or ID card number).

Business travelers need to upload an invitation letter issued by the company they plan to visit in Kenya. 

Once the application is submitted online, an applicant receives an email confirming the payment has been successfully registered.

Within maximally three business days, they will receive another email with the final decision, i.e., either approval or denial of the application. 

If the ETA is approved, the applicant should print the PDF file attached to the email. A printed copy of the valid travel authorization must be shown upon arrival in Kenya. 

Reasons for implementation of the ETA system in Kenya

The decision to ease visa requirements for all travelers and introduce the ETA system was an attempt to attract a number of foreign visitors to Kenya.

The main benefit of the new ETA system is the full digitalization of the process of collecting data on visitors to Kenya.

Relaxing entry requirements were aimed at sending a positive message about the openness and friendliness of the country to foreign travelers and investors. 

However, there has been a lot of backlash over the change in Kenya's visa policy. Many claim that the ETA is a visa, but has another name. 

Implementing the new system initially resulted in some logistical challenges. The website crashed, and many travelers did not know which entry document for Kenya was appropriate.

Now, the system is already working correctly without any interruptions. Travelers may receive the ETA approval in three days, but it usually takes less. 

Tourist arrivals in Kenya between 2020-2023

In 2023, the number of visitors to Kenya increased by over 30%, significantly boosting the thousands of businesses relying on the tourism industry.

This data confirms that the tourism sector has recovered since 2020, when the number of tourists drastically decreased to around 579,600 due to restrictions imposed by worldwide governments to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

In Kenya, the number of tourists gradually increased year by year - from 871,300in 2021 to nearly double in 2022 - 1.541 million.

The Kenyan government initiatives aim to promote investments in the tourism sector and grow tourist numbers to 200 million over the next 10 years. 

Bottom Lines

Despite the negative opinions of the general public and international travelers, the ETA system continues in Kenya.

The introduction of the system reflects the Kenyan commitment and desire to foster tourism in the country while addressing security concerns. 

The main benefits of the new system introduced in Kenya are reduced waiting time and standardized entry requirements and fees for all nationalities.

This strategic move can really impact the Kenyan tourism sector in a positive way and make Kenya one of the most open travel destinations around the world.


 

Katarzyna Żyła
2024-03-12
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