Kenya exempts Ethiopia, six other countries from eTA fees

Passengers at JKIA

Passengers queue for screening at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in early November last year. Kenya has exempted Ethiopia, Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville, Eritrea, Mozambique, San Marino and South Africa from eTA fees.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya has begun to tweak its online visitor registration service, which policymakers wanted to use to ease travel to the country but which some countries complained was too expensive.

And now the Department of Immigration and Citizen Services says citizens of Ethiopia and several other countries will not have to pay the $30 per traveller fee charged when visitors apply to come to Kenya.

The fee is often paid online via the portal after the government launched the Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) in January. According to the department, citizens of Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville, Eritrea, Mozambique, San Marino and South Africa will no longer be charged when applying for an eTA.

According to the Department, these are "countries that have concluded a visa abolition agreement or have signed bilateral visa waiver agreements with the Republic of Kenya". The five had signed visa exemption deals in the past year. Their exemption from eTA began on February 15, the Department said in response to a Nation query on Wednesday.

Bacha Debele, the Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya, had on Monday told Ethiopian nationals wishing to travel to Kenya to file free applications for eTA, which remains mandatory.

“My heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the Government of Kenya for its prompt response and kind decision to remove Ethiopian citizens from Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) related electronic payment requirement,” he said.

“We kindly inform our citizens that they can enter Kenya without any requirement for visa and its related payment, but the requirement to fill eTA form online before arrival, remains mandatory.”

Ethiopia was one of the first countries to sign visa exemption pacts with Nairobi, with agreements dating back five decades. But while Kenyans only need valid passports to travel to Ethiopia, for the past two months Ethiopians have had to pay $30 for an eTA, which must be applied for at least 72 hours before arrival.

The system sparked some complaints, especially from countries that do not routinely demand visas from Kenya. The new changes are part of ongoing consultations with foreign partners to improve it, a source told the Nation on Wednesday but gave no timeline on when the review will be completed.

While it was launched to ease the travel and visa application process, critics argued that the $30 fee was in fact a visa by another name.

The Department said applications for ETA will still be pegged 72 hours before arrival.

"An ETA issued is valid for travel to Kenya within 90 days from the date of issue."

However, it may face another question from critics who say the ETA application is not flexible, especially if one adjusts travel times or needs emergency travel.

As it stands, members of the East African Community are exempt from applying for an ETA and can travel as long as they have valid passports or national identity cards.