Kenyans Scramble for Digital Passports as Deadline Looms

The agony to acquire new e-passports ahead of the August 31 deadline continued on Friday with long queues witnessed at Nyayo House in Nairobi.

Kenyans had started to arrive at Nyayo House by 3.30am, fighting the cold of the dawn in a process that has now become a nightmare for thousands of applicants.

When Nation visited Nyayo House at 5am, more than 700 people were already queuing outside long before the gates could be opened.

The gates to the centre swing open at 6am but service delivery starts at 8am, the opening hour for all government offices.

CENTRES

This comes even as the government recently opened four new immigration centres in the country, and six others in the diaspora, in a bid to ease congestion at the Immigration headquarters.

Besides Nairobi, other centres are in Kisii, Embu, Eldoret and Nakuru.

Immigration Director-General Alex Muteshi said the centres are expected to serve at 1,500 people daily.

Centres outside the country are Johannesburg in South Africa, Berlin, London and Paris in Europe and Washington DC in the US and Dubai.

FRUSTRATION

Frustrated Kenyans took to social media to express their dissatisfaction at how the government is handling the matter.

"It is 0340h in the morning. There are more than 300 people already at Nyayo House. This government is a joke," said a Kenyan only identified as Curtis.

"This is inefficiency of the highest order," lamented Chiri Odemba another applicant.

"When I discovered it would take months of queuing at Nyayo House and never get immigration services, I decided to tour Kisumu City and make my replacement from there," said James Mutinda.

"I queued for nine hours at Nyayo House to get a passport. The government should do something about it," said Edwin Gichuru who got his passport two weeks ago.

PHASING OUT

In 2017, the government began phase out the old passports, with holders required to change to new digital passports.

The old documents will become obsolete starting September 1, 2019.

Kenyans now have 71 days to acquire the e-passports.

FEATURES

Here are some quick features of the new Kenyan e-passport:

How to get it: Applicants must personally present themselves to immigration offices for the taking of biometrics (fingerprints, photo, and signature).

Fees: It costs Sh4,550 for a 32-page and Sh6,050-page passport document. The processing period for an e-passport is 10 working days.

Distinct features: The e-passport has a chip which provides travellers benefits such as use of automated border clearance.

How it works: The e-passport will enhance faster clearance at points of entry and exit. It is highly secure, hence avoids passport reproduction and tampering.

Passport number: The new e-passport will not bear the same passport number as current passport. It will have a new number.

Living abroad: You can renew or get a new e-passport through any Kenyan embassy.

Logo: The e-passport logo, which appears on the cover, is the international symbol for an electronic passport. It means that the passport has an integrated circuit or chip on which data about the passport and its holder is stored.

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