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Kenya to clear backlog of biometric passports, new ‘smart and digital ID’ system coming

Kenya to clear backlog of biometric passports, new ‘smart and digital ID’ system coming

Kenya’s government has taken delivery of 50,000 booklets which will enable it expedite the issuance of biometric passports after a one-year hiatus, the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Interior and National Administration Kithure Kindiki has announced. The government has also unveiled plans to accelerate the issuance of citizenship and residency documents and to introduce advanced security systems at the country’s major ports of entry. A third-generation digital identity system is also being planned.

50K passport booklets available

In a statement issued over the weekend, Kindiki said they were expecting a further 200,000 34-page passport booklets this week as the government plans to issue an additional 6.5 million passports in the next five years.

“The delay in the issuance of new Kenyan passports which had prevailed for a period of one year due to lack of passport booklets and the breakdown of the printer at the Directorate of Immigration Services has now been addressed. The department is in receipt of 50,000 34-page booklets with a further 200,000 booklets expected next week and a similar figure each month for the next six months,” the statement reads.

Aside from repairing the broken printer, Kindiki says plans are afoot to acquire a new one in order to fast-track the passport printing process.

“All eligible applicants for the Kenya passport are advised that passport booklets are now available in sufficient numbers and processing of passports has been expedited to conform to international standards. The ministry has set a target of tripling the number of Kenya passport holders from the current 3.5 million to 10 million in the next five years,” Kindiki says.

Citizenship applications

The cabinet secretary also said he approved nearly 1,700 citizenship applications last week, some of which had been pending since 2018. He called on the competent services to accelerate action on all such applications and related services, going forward.

“I have directed the Directorate of Immigration Services to ensure 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 receipt of the recommendation of the department.”

Smart and digital ID system soon

Kindiki also mentioned the recent announcement that birth and death registrations in the country are going digital, as part of the country’s digital revolution.

He also talked about the new policy to introduce “a Unique Personal Identifier (UPI) at birth for all new borns, the number that will be the child’s personal number in school and later on become their national identity number, social security number, and eventually the death certificate number upon which the UPI shall expire.”

“In the period between the time the UPI is introduced and 18 years later when it will transit into the ID, the ministry is working on introduction of the third generation smart and digital ID,” the statement notes.

Advanced security systems at ports of entry

According to Kindiki, plans are far advanced regarding the acquisition and installing of an Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and other points of entry into the country.

The system in question, the official said, “will be integrated to the international immigration system to profile passengers traveling in and out of Kenya and even those transiting through the country before they land here.”

“APIS will be supplemented with installation of eGates at JKIA and our ports of entry. Besides being a major boost in assisting our immigration and security endeavors, this APIS system and eGates will eliminate queues at our immigration counters. Kenya and East African citizens will not be queuing up for an immigration stamp unless for customs enforcement,” Kindiri assures.

Recently, Kindiki also spoke about measures being taken by the administration to reduce the processing time for ID applications from Kenyans living in border counties.

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