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First batch of visa-free foreign travellers land at JKIA

The first batch of visa-free international travellers to Kenya landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi on Friday, January 5.

Immigration PS Julius Bitok meets Ms Kyung Sang Yoo, who was among the first visa-free travellers to Kenya

At least 2,300 more visitors are expected in the coming days under the arrangement after President William Ruto waived visa requirements for all travellers to Kenya irrespective of the country of origin beginning this year.

The development follows the gazetting of the regulations to anchor the directive by Interior and National Administration Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki.

Immigration and Citizen Services PS Julius Bitok who witnessed the maiden visa-free arrivals on Ethiopian Airlines flight number ET 318 from Addis Ababa said over 5,000 applications for electronic travel authorization (ETA) had already been received and a half of them already processed.

“It’s very easy to apply and get an ETA. You just need to fill your personal data in ten minutes and you should be able to get an approval in 72 hours. We have made sure that travelling to Kenya is going to be an easy and pleasant experience,” he said.

The sentiments were backed by passengers who said the ETA process was simple and faster compared to the visa application system it has replaced.

“We used to spend long hours going through the visa application but it took me a few minutes to complete the ETA process for my entire family,” said Kyunga Sang Yoo, a South Koren national, who is a frequent visitor to Kenya.

Kenya hopes the visa-free regime will double or at least drastically increase the two million annual visitors to Kenya.

PS Bitok said the country further hoped to absorb the foregone revenue from visa applications from the anticipated spending by a higher number of tourists.

“On average, each visitor spends around Sh500,000 within three months in Kenya. We believe we can grow the annual revenue from increased tourism to Sh1.5 trillion every year," he said.

He dismissed criticism that visa-free entry will expose the country to international criminal syndicates and their activities saying the new system offers better means of identifying and blacklisting undesirable visitors.

“ETA is a much superior system as we’re able to foretell persons who are coming to our country in advance and ensuring the necessary precautions are in place so that only the right people are welcomed,” PS Bitok.

The PS said although Kenya hoped other countries will reciprocate the visa-free regime for its citizens, the benefits of indiscriminate visa policy outweighed concerns of failure to respond in kind.

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