The Kenya Kwanza government has set a target to triple the number of Kenyan passport holders from the current 3.5 million to 10 million in the next five years.
The government has said it will implement changes in the Citizen Services department that will require extensive procurement and drastically change how Kenyans are registered.
Among the new measures are the introduction of a number that children will be given at birth which they will use throughout their lives, the introduction of third-generation national identification cards, electronic gates at airports and other points of entry, the procurement of a new passport printing machine, and a passenger information system that will enable authorities to scrutinise passengers long before they reach exit points.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, in a statement, said the measures are aimed at improving service delivery in the department.
Regarding the passport issue, Prof Kindiki said the ministry is “in the process” of acquiring a new printer while announcing that the current one that had broken down had been fixed.
“All eligible applicants for the Kenyan passport are advised that passport booklets are now available in sufficient numbers and processing of passports has been expedited to conform to international standards,” said Prof Kindiki.
“The ministry has set a target of tripling the number of Kenyan passport holders from the current 3.5 million to 10 million in the next five years,” he added.
On the number to be issued to children, Prof Kindiki said the ministry “has initiated the policy framework” for the introduction of a Unique Personal Identifier (UPI) that all new-borns will be given.
“The number will be the child’s personal number in school and later on become their national identity number, social security number, health insurance number and eventually the death certificate number upon which the UPI shall expire,” he stated.
A local daily reported last month that the UPI will be introduced from March 1, but Prof Kindiki’s statement did not indicate the timelines.
Kenyans are likely to have different national IDs. Prof Kindiki indicated that the government will introduce third-generation cards. These, he said, will be in use even before the first crop of Kenyans who will get UPIs at birth automatically get IDs when they turn 18.
The latest IDs come in the form of plastic cards containing the bearer’s details. The next generation of IDs will have electronic features infused into it.
“The ministry is working on the introduction of the third-generation, smart and digital ID,” he noted.
The Huduma Card, championed by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration in 2019, had an element of electronic information storage but it was not mentioned in Prof Kindiki’s statement.
Regarding the identifier at airports, Prof Kindiki stated: “The ministry is at an advanced stage of acquiring and installing an Advanced Passenger Information System (Apis) that will be integrated into the international immigration system to enable (it) to profile passengers travelling in and out of Kenya and even those transiting through the country before they land here.”
“Apis will be supplemented with the installation of e-Gates at JKIA [Jomo Kenyatta International Airport] and our ports of entry. Besides being a major boost in assisting our immigration and security endeavours, this Apis system and e-Gates will eliminate queues at our immigration counters. Kenyan and East African citizens will not be queuing for an immigration stamp,” he added.
At the same time, Prof Kindiki announced that he had granted Kenyan citizenship to 1,698 applicants who had sought it under different circumstances but had been kept waiting from as far back as 2018.
Among the most affected were spouses and children of Kenyan citizens who had applied to be granted citizenship but had not got it. There were 91 such applications in 2018; 94 in the following year; 46 in 2020; 248 in 2021; 259 in 2022 and 77 in 2023, bringing them to a total of 815.
“I approved (the) 815 applications … in an effort to strengthen the social fabric of the Kenya society by promoting the family unit. We are doing our bit to ensure families stay together without inconveniences whatsoever,” stated the CS.
Also, 75 people who had been living in Kenya lawfully and had sought citizenship but had not yet been granted were given Prof Kindiki’s nod. He equally gave his blessings to 19 work permit appeals “to allow genuinely skilled individuals to work for various organisations in our country”.
Henceforth, said Prof Kindiki, such applications will be finalised in a month.
“I have directed the Directorate of Immigration Services to ensure decisions on all applications for citizenship, permanent residency and work permits are processed within 21 days from the date of application. I pledge to convey my determination on all applications, including appeals, within seven days following the recommendation of the department,” noted Prof Kindiki.