How To Apply For a Work Or Residence Permit In Kenya

Foreigners can successfully and peacefully work and reside in Kenya, as long as a work and residence permit has been obtained. A work or residence permit is issued to allow a person to lawfully work and live in a particular country. The Ministry of Immigration in the Republic of Kenya issues the work/ residence permits to Non-Kenyans wishing to engage in employment in Kenya whether in gainful employment or voluntary service.

Foreigners engaging in any work in Kenya without a permit are committing an offense and can lead to immediate deportation and a ban from ever returning to Kenya.


The key factors to note when intending to apply for a permit are as follows:
1. The kind of business/investment/employment/residence you intend to get involved in determines the type of permit to be issued

2. Proper documentation in regard to the kind of work you intend to carry out in Kenya is not optional and all necessary licenses or authority to undertake the work should be provided
3. The work intended to be carried out should be legal in Kenya

The permits are classified from Class A to M and are issued in accordance with the Kenya Citizenship & Immigration Act 2011 of the Laws of Kenya.

The process commences at the application stage which is facilitated by the Department of Immigration on the Kenyan Immigration portal ( This is the official digital payments platform that enables foreign nationals to access and pay government services online. One thus needs to first set up an account through the following link

An application form provided on the platform needs to be duly filled. Depending on the category or class of permit, the following need to be provided as you fill the relevant application form. This applies to all types of permits:

  • Cover letter from employer/self/organization; depending on the class
  • Copies of the National Passport
  • Two recent colored passport size photographs
  • Application fees upon receipt of approval of the application

The duly completed application forms are then submitted.

Work permits are issued for a period of two years and so applications for renewal herein ought to be done three months prior to the expiry date. This is for purposes of giving the department ample time to properly verify the application so that the renewal can happen systematically. If employment or work comes to an end before the expiry of the work permit, the person will be required to surrender the work permit and the foreigner’s certificate to the immigration offices and then go back to his/her home country.

If the documents are in foreign languages they should be translated into English by either the Embassy, Public Notary, or authorized or recognized institution.


1. CLASS A (Mining permits)

This permit is issued to persons who are planning to engage in prospecting for minerals or mining. The necessary licenses and registrations should be obtained. This can be obtained by inquiring with the State Department of Mining and registering for access to the Mining Cadastre Portal in person. Further instructions are provided for in the aforesaid entities.

2. CLASS B (Agricultural investors)

This one is issued to persons who intend to invest in Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. This involves farming generally and the business of raising livestock for food or other products and includes day-to-day care and selective breeding.

3. CLASS D (Employment permits)

This type of permit is issued to those who are offered specific employment by specific employers qualified to undertake that employment and whose engagement in that employment is beneficial to Kenya. Applying for this permit requires the applicant to produce copies of academic/professional certificates along with the curriculum vitae, evidence that the organization failed to fill the vacancy from the local labor market, form 25 duly filled, signed and sealed by the company employing.

4.CLASS G (Investor Permits)
This permit is issued to investors is specific trade, business, or consultancy. The investor may intend to invest alone or in partnership in a particular business or consultancy. He/she should obtain the necessary license or authority necessary to carry out the purpose, should have sufficient capital or resources to invest in the intended area and this investment should be beneficial to the Republic of Kenya.

5.CLASS I (Members of missionary societies)
This permit is issued to a member of a missionary society approved by the Government of Kenya and whose presence is beneficial to the country. It is also referred to as the permit regarding approved religious or charitable activities. This missionary society should be registered under the Society’s Act.

The applicant should provide a copy of the registration certificate of the organization, his/her academic and professional certificates, and the non-refundable processing fee of Kshs. 1,000/=. The applicant should also indicate the current immigration status if in the country already. In addition, the applicant should provide a valid organization Tax Compliance Certificate, and when renewing the permit he/she should provide both organization and individual Tax Compliance Certificates from Kenya Revenue Authority.

It is a residence permit issued to those who have an assured income derived from sources outside and have agreed to not accept paid employment of any kind. Also known as Ordinary Residents’ Permit.

The applicant should not be less than thirty-five years of age, have an assured annual income of not less than USD 24,000/= derived from sources outside and will be remitted to Kenya, or is derived from pension or annuity payable from sources in Kenya. The applicant should not accept employment or engage in any work without a permit and whose presence in Kenya will be of benefit to Kenya.

7.CLASS M (Refugees)
This one is issued to Conventional Refugees. The applicant should provide recognition letters from UNHCR and Department of Refugees Affairs and indicate the current immigration status. A valid organization Tax Compliance Certificate should be provided too, upon renewal the individual Tax Compliance Certificate should be provided in addition to the one for the organization as issued by the KRA. There is no charge for the processing fee and the permit.

Defendant Pass

Section 36 of the Citizenship and Immigration Act 2011 provides that passes shall be issued by immigration officers in such manner as shall be prescribed in regulations.

Section 27 of the Citizenship and Immigration Regulations of 2011 (Rev. 2018) stipulates that a person who is Kenya lawfully, is a Kenyan citizen, a person to whom Section 34(3) of the Act applies, has a work permit or is a permanent resident may apply on behalf of his/her dependant for a pass as stipulated in the regulations.

The immigration officer shall only issue a pass once he/she is satisfied that the ‘dependant’ indeed depends on the applicant, that the person is a spouse or a child of the applicant, that the applicant is able to sufficiently take care of the dependant while in the country, and that the applicant has observed any other key requirement as provided by law.

Upon completion of application of the Defendant pass, the applicant is required to pay Kshs. 5,000/= and the pass is valid for the period of the work permit

This information is provided from the immigration website.

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