Getting a Kenyan passport can be a long and frustrating process for first time applicants. For one, the application involves many steps and details which only increase the likelihood of making errors. Indeed, most people have to rely on cybercafé’s, often at steep prices, to complete what should be a quick and painless process.
Secondly, some of the application requirements that are stipulated on different government sites and online blogs do not match up, and this only adds to the confusion and source of errors for applicants.
To make matters worse, as I experienced first-hand, some of these requirements are actually completely unnecessary as they are not needed during the biometric appointment.
Evidently, there’s a lot of red tape that passport application process could dispense with and save the applicants not just time but precious money. It’s also likely that there’s a miscommunication between what the immigration department actually requires and the information on the eCitizen site.
These issues are however rather benign compared to the real problem which besets the passport application process: long waiting periods to get the passports — an issue that is only compounded by the commonly accepted belief regarding the deep-rooted corruption in the immigration department.
The source for this is blamed on the government’s old and inefficient passport printers, which apparently keep breaking down every now often. As it follows, the repairs take an inordinate time and what you have is a huge backlog of applicants extending back to several months.
Mr. Kindiki, the current cabinet secretary for the interior ministry, has pledged to sort out this perennial problem and promises faster processing of passports in as short as 7 days.
While we wait for that ambitious target to bear fruits, here are some few tips based on my experience to minimize mistakes and wastage of money when making the application and during the subsequent biometric appointment.
A. eCitizen Passport Application
When filling the passport application on the eCitizen portal, take note of the following details:
- In the form where you’re asked who in your family has a passport, choose a person (parent / spouse) only if you know you can get a photocopy of that passport. Otherwise, just select None to avoid being asked for this copy during the biometric appointment.
- For the location to submit the application, choose preferably a centre that typically has fewer applicants to avoid long queues. Nairobi (Nyayo House) is notorious for having very many applicants, so you may opt for Embu, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret or whichever is closer to you.
- Enter NONE if you have no special peculiarities.
- If you are of African descent, you most likely have either black or brown eyes. Please don’t be that odd fellow that gets turned away for selecting green eyes. Contacts don’t apply here.
- Confirm your correct height before entering it. They do measure it, albeit randomly. I recall encountering a 5.8″ guy who had been turned back for correction for being under the mistaken belief he was 6.7″.
- Your place of birth is the one indicated on your birth certificate, i.e. Birth in the __
- The format for the date of birth is YYYY-MM-DD e.g 1992-01-31 for 31st January 1992. I remember coming across someone who had interchanged the day and month and was turned back to make the correction.
- The birth entry number is the number indicated next to the year of birth on your birth certificate. Note however that you need to enter both the number and the year of birth i.e. if your birth entry number is 1234567 and your DOB is 1992 you’ll enter 1234567/1992. I was turned back to correct this, so it’s very fresh on my mind.
- Skip entering the parent’s passport number (father or mother) or Rno. Even if the number is correct, you may have to make some other edits on the document as I learnt the hard way. Basically, if you can avoid it, skip entering any information regarding anyone in your family having a passport until they fix whatever is wrong with the application form itself.
- Confirm that all uploads are uploaded successfully. For some strange reason I saw a couple of applicants being turned back to re-upload their birth certificates, including one who swore that they had actually uploaded it.
Note: If possible, make the application by yourself to reduce the chances of errors. I saw some people being turned back for very odd mistakes like the wrong height or eye colour, presumably because they had an expert at a cyber fill the application on their behalf.
This is however not an indictment on all cybercafés, since most of them do actually help a great deal, especially for those without access to smartphones and/or computers. Just stick to those who know what they are doing and pay attention to what they fill.
B. Passport Biometric Appointment
- You can always reschedule your passport appointment date on the passport application page to a different location and/or date. Note however that the available days may be very far from your original date.
- The time you schedule for your appointment may determine when your biometrics will be processed. So for instance, if your appointment was at 12PM but you show up early and are done with the first phase of the process by 9AM, then you may still have to wait until 12PM for your biometrics to be recorded. Nevertheless, this “rule” seemed to be applied rather arbitrary. To be on the safe side, however, just pick the earliest time possible then show up early.
- The actual documents that are needed during the submission include:
- One filled passport application form (Form 19)
- Original National ID and one copy
- Original Birth Certificate and one copy
- 2 payment receipts
- Photocopies of parent’s National ID’s (or copies of death certificates if deceased)
- Photocopy of the passport details page (the one with the passport photo) if you happen to indicate someone in your family owns a passport
They also specify you bring with you 3 current passport size photos and the recommender’s ID however in my case they didn’t bother taking either of them. Turns out they take their own set of passports during the biometric process. Still, just to be on the safe side, take them with you.
- You don’t need a chief, lawyer or some other high status individual to recommend you. As long as it’s a Kenyan citizen of sound mind who is not an immediate relative, then they’re fit to act as your recommender. Likewise, they don’t need to be in possession of a passport to recommend you.
Basically, you can have a friend recommend you. So unless you have money to spare, don’t even think about paying a lawyer or some other person for this. I mean, even the immigration officers themselves did not take the recommender’s ID and the certified passport photo during the appointment. This is just red tape that should be done away with.
- Once your documents check out, you’ll proceed to a station where another receipt is printed and stuck on your copy of the eCitizen payment receipt. Verify that the type of passport printed on this receipt corresponds to the one you had paid for before leaving that station.
I know of a person who had applied for the type B Series (50 pages) which costs KES6050 but on getting home they realized that on this receipt it was indicated that they had applied for the type A (34 pages) which costs KES4550. Turns out that the 34 pages booklet was the only one available by the time their appointment date had arrived, but a few months prior when they had applied application all the 3 types had been available for selection on the eCitizen application form.
Update: It turns out my friend’s incident wasn’t isolated — similar and related malpractices have been affecting other applicants, as detailed in this article by the Daily Nation.
The final tip: make sure you go on a full stomach on the day of the appointment, then hope and pray that you encounter immigration officers in good spirits. If that’s the case, it will be smooth sailing for you, and you can expect to be done with the whole affair quickly provided you arrive early and don’t have any corrections to make.
Contrary to popular belief, not all the immigration officers are a pain in the neck or want a bribe from you — at least that was my experience where I went (not Nyayo House).
Of the 4 I had the privilege of encountering during the whole “pleasant” affair that lasted a good 4 hours, they were as follows: the first one on the line was quite ill-humoured (not that they owed us any pleasantries) perhaps because they were the one tasked with the “dirty” work of separating the wheat from the chaff.
The second was surprisingly accommodating and, as anyone with a discerning eye would attest to, very diligent in their work. The third was enviably provisioned with a computer for their task, and with such light duties was just as easygoing. Oddly, for all their pleasantness, they had to be locked away behind a cage.
Ironically, the “best” of the bunch had been saved for last — this one had some “menial” tasks that, quite understandably, they were very eager to get over with by seizing on the opportunity to chastise any sign of cluelessness in that unwelcoming government office.
In other words, it was better than I had expected to say the least (but perhaps, as some outsider may be quick to point out, only so because as Kenyans we’re so used to getting the bare minimum in customer experience from government corridors to the extent that a slight deviation on the positive always serves to unduly magnify our perception of such experiences for the better).