As the country upgrades its technology and implements more e-services, it is possible and even encouraged to travel to Kenya with a biometric passport.
Also known as electronic passports or e-passports, these modern travel documents are issued by many countries worldwide and contain digital information about the passenger.
Kenyan nationals living abroad are being asked to obtain a new Kenya biometric passport to replace their old ones. Foreign visitors can use their e-passports to enter the country quickly and smoothly.
What is a biometric passport and is it a requirement to enter Kenya? Do travelers applying for the Kenya eVisa need an e-passport? This quick guide explains everything visitors need to know about biometric passports and Kenya.
What Is a Biometric Passport?
A biometric passport (also referred to as an e-passport or digital passport) is an electronic passport that contains biometric data about the holder. It has an electronic chip, which can be read by machines such as e-gates when passing through border control.
The use of biometric passports improve security as they are difficult to forge and reduce the likelihood of a traveler using someone else’s passport to enter a country, since the biometric data will not match.
These electronic passports and related technology like e-gates also provide a level of automation at border control that help arrivals to pass through security more quickly and keep the lines moving, making the whole process more efficient.
How Do I Know if My Passport Is Biometric?
Biometric passports contain an electronic microprocessor chip that can be read using contactless smart card technology. However, the technology is so small, it cannot be detected by hand.
The easiest way to know if you have an e-passport is to check for the biometric symbol, which looks like a rectangle with a horizontal line passing through it and a circle in the center, somewhat resembling a camera (see photo below).
The symbol appears in gold at the bottom of the front cover of biometric passports.
What Information Is Stored on a Biometric Passport?
The electronic chip in a biometric passport stores the same data that appears on the biographical information page, including the following:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
Most biometric passports also store a machine-readable image of the holder’s face, which allows the individual to use e-passport gates. These scan the traveler and compare their face to the digital image stored in the chip. In this way, the biometric passport photo helps to maintain border security and increase efficiency.
Some biometric passports hold other data, such as fingerprint scans. This varies depending on the country of issue.
Do I Need a Biometric Passport to Travel to Kenya?
International travelers do not currently need to have a biometric passport for Kenya.
However, the country is improving its technology and individuals with e-passports can take advantage of this to pass through border control quicker than those with older passports.
Kenya is in the process of upgrading its systems and digitizing public services. Part of this includes installing e-gates and e-passport readers in airports. This will make it easier for individuals with biometric passports to enter the country quickly and smoothly.
Kenyan citizens, including those living abroad, are encouraged to replace their old passports with new biometric ones. In the future, it is possible that e-passports will be required by all incoming travelers.
As the country moves into e-services, there are also plans to process visa applications entirely online, making the Kenya eVisa obligatory for all travelers from 2021.
Can I Use My Old Passport to Travel to Kenya?
Currently, older passports without an electronic chip are accepted at the Kenyan border and will grant a foreign national entry to the country, as long as they have all the other required documents, such as a Kenya eVisa.
It is possible to apply for an eVisa for Kenya without an e-passport, since the eVisa must be printed and can be registered to older passports without a chip containing digital information.
The requirements for the Kenya eVisa state that the passport must continue to be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the planned date of arrival in the country. The passport itself may be biometric or otherwise.Apply for Kenya eVisa Now