By Oliver Mathenge
A deal struck by President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Barack Obama in July to increase validity of visa will kick off at the end of the September.
In an announcement made on Thursday, the US Embasssy in Nairobi said this increased validity will cover tourist business and student visas.
“The United States and the Republic of Kenya are scheduled to jointly increase the validity of short-term business/tourist visas and student visas issued to each other’s citizens on September 22, 2015,” the announcement said.
Qualified Kenyan students and their dependents who qualify for a student visa will be eligible for a multiple-entry student visa valid for up to five years or the length of their program.
“U.S. citizens eligible for Kenyan short-term business and tourist visas or student visas will be afforded the same benefit. Changes in visa validity will not affect visa eligibility criteria. Visa applicants will be subject to the same standards of eligibility for a U.S. visa as before the change in validity,” the statement by the embassy said.
While in Nairobi on July 25, Obama announced that they had agreed with Uhuru to ease the visa validity between the two countries.
“We will extend student and business visas for up to five years for Kenyans travelling to the United States and for Americans travelling to Kenya. This will make it easier for students to complete their studies and for businesses to make long-term plans,” Obama said during a joint press briefing with Uhuru at State House in Nairobi.
However, Kenyans will pay an extra US$40 (Sh4,000) as a “reciprocity fee” above the normal fees, if their extended visa application is approved.
The extended validity for visas is one of the ways that the US and Kenya are seeking to help enhance trade between the two countries.
“The reciprocal extension of visa validity to five years underscores the commitment of both the United States and the Republic of Kenya to promote bilateral trade and tourism, increase opportunities for people-to-people engagement, and enhance mutual understanding between our countries,” the US embassy announcement said.
This new arrangement will be more convenient and less costly for travellers.
Currently, Kenyan business travellers and tourists must apply annually if visiting the United States each year but they will now only need to apply to renew their visa once every five years.
Currently, Kenyan students who depart the US for short visits abroad are required to apply for new visas but will now use the same visa as long as they remain full-time students in good standing.