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Government freezes travel for officers without digital passports

Friday April 26 2019

Joseph Kinyua.

Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

VICTOR JUMA
By VICTOR JUMA
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The government has frozen foreign travel for civil servants without digital passports.

In a circular dated April 15 to government institutions, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua cited hitches in processing of visa and entry permits using the machine-readable ones, which are set to expire in September.

Although entry and exit requirements vary from country to country, Mr Kinyua said the general rule is that a passport should be valid for at least six months at the time of travel.

“Considering that the machine-readable passports will cease to be a valid travel document with effect from September 1, 2019, any machine-readable passport is already outside the 6 months validity period,” Mr Kinyua said in the circular which re-emphasised an earlier one he wrote on September 26, 2018.

“To avoid inconveniences that may be occasioned on account of the limited validity period of the machine-readable passports and in observance of the above-mentioned circular, travel clearance should not be issued to officers who do not hold the e-passport.”

E-PASSPORTS

The order means that public servants who had planned to travel in the next few weeks could be forced to reschedule or abandon their travel unless they can acquire the e-passports quickly.

The e-passports are designed to better protect national borders and identities of citizens. They have the latest security features and design techniques besides a new style polycarbonate bio-data page.

Kenya launched its e-passport programme in 2017, making it the first country in the East African Community (EAC) to do so.

This saw the country comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) global specifications and additional requirements set by EAC members.

E-passports have an embedded electronic chip in the passport booklet that stores the biographical information visible on page 2 of the document, as well as a digital security feature, according to ICAO.

APPLICATIONS

The digital security feature is a unique, country specific "digital signature" which can be verified using each nation’s respective certificate.

The government says the new passport is harder to duplicate and helps to counter threats from criminals such as terrorists and human traffickers.

The e-passport system was installed by British security printer De La Rue.

Mr Kinyua said that public servants are still making requests for visa facilitation using the machine-readable passports which are due to expire on August 31, 2019 in violation of the earlier circular.

“Please be advised that while passport requirements for entry and exit vary from country to country, the general rule is that a passport should have at least six (6) months validity when travelling internationally,” he said.

“Therefore, most countries will not issue a visa or permit a traveller to enter their country unless the passport is set to expire at least six months after the final date of travel.”

He added that civil servants should make arrangements to apply for the new e-passports, noting that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will not facilitate visa issuance for holders of the machine-readable passports.

Officials copied in the circular were asked to inform their staff of the passport rules. They include cabinet secretaries, county governors, principal secretaries, commissioners and holders of independent offices.