Expats travelling the region better still carry cash for Visa – until further notice that is

VISA WAIVER FOR RESIDENTS OF THE COALITION OF THE WILLING COUNTRIES – REALLY?

(Posted 23rd December 2014)

Announcements, or so it appears, clearly are one thing while the implementation of such grand gestures like the Visa waiver for foreign residents and holders of workpermits in the Northern Corridor Cooperation Countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya is something quite different.

It was almost a year ago that a similar announcement, that a common tourist Visa would be available as of 01st of January 2014, failed to become effective, when some of the countries were simply not ready with the Visa stickers and internal regulations and work instructions for immigration officers as air and land borders. At the same time was travel by ID for citizens of the three countries equally delayed when on the 01st of January several individual known to this correspondent tried their luck, only to be rejected by the respective airlines – they all traveled though but on passports – AND the immigration desks, again for lack of preparation. It took some weeks to rectify this at the time but is now finally a common feature.

When the Heads of State of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya at their summit meeting directed, that Visa free travel for duly registered expatriates or holders of residency permits, be allowed to travel freely between the three countries was equally caution counselled here, recalling the experience of some 11 ½ months ago.

True enough have now two reports come in from acquaintances that their attempt to get a ‘voucher’ or other form of identification or confirmation of their status when leaving their host country, failed, contrary to assertions by the head of one tourism board that the arrangements were in place since the 15th of December. (Citizens of the three countries do get a ‘voucher’ to hand in at the immigration desk of the receiving country as confirmation that they were bone fide citizens and against production of their ID, or in the case of Uganda their Voter’s Card, can then enter).

Both travelled to Kenya over the past week, and both were charged 50 US Dollars Visa fees by Kenya’s immigration officials, inspite of showing their work permits in their passports. One of them, who had paid a month earlier and was given a 3 month Visa – something which permits ordinary tourists to return for free to Kenya after visiting another EAC country – was told that as a resident in Uganda he had to pay the 50 bucks every time he entered, regardless of what applied to tourists resident overseas or about new rules of which the immigration officers claimed they were yet to be informed about.

It is unclear therefore, at present at least, when the new measures will be effective and implemented. Kenya’s coast hoteliers surely hope sooner rather than later, as the money expats then save in Visa fees, presently some 200 US Dollars for a family of four, will entice more of them to come to Mombasa and fill empty beds there rather than flying off on incidentally much cheaper airfares to Dubai where they need no Visa.

News of this sort truly only appear to become news when such news have become effective and been rolled out. Quod erat demonstrandum.

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