Chinese investors urged to comply with Kenya’s immigration laws

Chinese nationals living in Kenya have been urged to comply with the immigration laws to avoid being deported back to their country.

Speaking during the security prevention workshop for Chinese nationals residing in Kenya on Friday in Nairobi, Samuel Kariuki, a senior staffer at the Directorate of Immigration, encouraged Chinese investors to ensure that their work permits are valid and that they observe the established laws.

Kariuki warned the investors and workers against seeking the services of brokers and agents when applying for work permits and other documents, and he advised them to deal with immigration officers.

"We have had cases of some foreigners being issued forged documents by brokers and agents in the name of acquiring the immigration documents faster. In such a case, you will face the law," he said.

Kariuki advised Chinese nationals to apply for immigration documents online, through which they can follow up on their progress as well as avoid being conned.

Foreigners can apply for their pass, permit, alien card, permanent residence cards through electronic the Foreign Nationals Services (eFNS) portal.

"When you apply for a work permit or any other document through the eFNS portal, you are issued an FNS account and a password. You will then be notified on the progress of your documents. Unfortunately, many people don't use their FNS accounts," he said.

He also called upon investors to strictly engage in legal businesses, noting that some foreigners have been caught importing and manufacturing of counterfeit products.

"If any investor is found engaging in the manufacturing or selling of sub-standard goods, they will be deported back to their country. Also avoid exporting of prohibited products like donkey skin or manufacture banned products like plastic bags," he said.

Kariuki noted that there have been cases of tax evasion by some foreign investors. When renewing work permits, investors are requested by the immigration department to produce their tax compliance certificate.

He said Those who have not been meeting their tax obligation may seek the services of brokers and agents who make them forged tax compliant certificates.

"It's very unfortunate because once you produce a forged certificate, your permit will be rejected and you will be arrested and charged in court," Kariuki said.

Another common problem, he said, is investors submitting a forged bank statement. "Once we get any statement from an investor, we forward them to banks to verify whether they are genuine," Kariuki said.

He also noted that many foreigners are engaging in business or employment without work permits.

The Kenyan rules state that a foreigner without a work permit can only stay in the country for a maximum of six months. Once the immigration department discovers that a foreigner has been in Kenya and other countries longer than his home country and has no work permit, an investigation of the person is launched.

Often the foreigner happens to be engaged in a business or employment without a permit or documentations legalizing their stay in Kenya.

To stay in the country longer without a work permit, the immigration department recently discovered that some foreigners have devised a trick of staying in Kenya as tourists for like five months after which they go for a trip in a certain country then come back. "You can't convince us that you have been a tourist for two consecutive years. You are duping us," Kariuki said.

He also advised the Chinese workers to acquire a new work permit once they change their employer because failure to do so will be committing an offence.

Foreign investors are also required by the law to offer positions in which skills are available locally. "We will not issue work permits for expertise that are locally available. If for instance you want to bring a Chinese assistant production manager, indicate the skills that he has which is lacking locally," he said.

Apart from the work permit complains, another complaint among the Chinese Nationals has been harassment by traffic police officers.

Peter Gikonyo, a commissioner of Police, National Police Service, advised the Chinese investors to observe traffic rules and warned them against bribing officers.

He said traffic police officers are mandated to deal with traffic offences. This involves checking whether the car, the driver and the passengers have complied with traffic regulations. For instance, whether the vehicle is registered, and whether the drivers license is valid.

"The police officer must be in uniform and if he has to check your document, it should be the identification card but not any other document like a work permit," he said.

Gikonyo noted that they are planning to have a liaison police officer at the Kenya Investment Authority's one-stop-center, to address concerns about police officers among foreign investors.

He noted that Joseph Boinett, the inspector general of National Police Service, is willing to help Chinese investors where he can, so that they can help the Kenyan government to achieve the big four agenda as they have promised.