Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, the 3 partner states of the East African Community (EAC) under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects initiative, have waived visa fees for foreign residents living within their borders in order to allow them easier access to the region’s diverse offering.

The East Africa Tourist Visa was approved last year on 11th December 2014 and is contained in a Ministerial report that Presidents Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Paul Kagame of Rwanda signed at the 8th Northern Corridor Integration Summit held in Nairobi in December 2014.

Foreign residents in the 3 Partner States with valid work and resident permits will no longer be required to pay the USD 30-50 visa fee on arrival but will now be issued with an Interstate pass at the airport of departure for admission to the destination. Uganda and Rwanda implemented this reform on 15th December 2014 but the impact only became real when Kenya effected the directive on 15th February 2015.

Uganda Tourism Board’s Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Asiimwe said, “This move is bound to bring exponential benefits to foreign residents living in the 3 countries. Our countries have a rich tourist menu on offer.

From serene beaches to pristine wildlife and nature, exquisite reserves, and warm and inviting people, our region is the place to visit. Our products are inexhaustible and this waiver offers our region, the best place to live and work.

We encourage this expatriate community to be a part of the endless discovery, encounter and adventure of the best tourism episode of Africa at the least affordable price.”

“We encourage the private sector to take advantage of this opportunity to offer unbeatable packages while maximising win-win offers,” Asiimwe added.

Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) Managing Director, Muriithi Ndegwa meanwhile said, “the visa-free travel will provide an amazing opportunity for residents staying in the 3 Partner States to explore the immense diversity of wildlife, landscapes, cultures, and heritage, among other renowned attractions either for weekend gateways, corporate retreats or annual family holidays.”

On her part, the Rwanda Development Board’s Head of the Department for Tourism and Conservation, Ambassador Yamina Karitanyi, said in a statement that the waiver of the fee was the next step in consolidating and enriching the region’s tourism offering.

“We are approaching the rest of the world as a unified and rich tourist destination with varied experiences for travellers. We are also positioning East Africa’s tourism assets collectively as part of the Northern Corridor Integration Projects,” she said.

Yamina also said that the joint marketing programmes will be carried out annually and will cover international trade fairs such as the International Tourism Board (ITB), JATA Tourism EXPO Japan, Akwaaba African Travel Market and World Travel Market (WTM). She pointed out that, going forward, the Partner States will lobby for a single stand during international tourism marketing events.

Outlining the modalities of implementing the East Africa Tourist Visa, Ambassador Karitanyi said the eligible foreign residents shall be issued with interstate passes on exiting the host state and a visitor’s pass endorsed in their passports on arrival by presenting valid work/resident permits. Other immigration procedures and regulations will however be maintained.

In preparing for the joint marketing programs, she noted that the 3 Partner States were already gearing up the teams involved by conducting destination training workshops and disseminating information on the use of National Identity Cards, Student/Voters Cards and the East Africa Tourist Visa.

Waturi Matu, Coordinator of the East Africa Tourism Platform noted that “there was a need for continued lobbying on the free movement of persons, services and other tourism-related issues within the full East African Community (EAC). However, this will only be possible if the Tourism and Wildlife Management Sectoral Council meetings are held frequently and the agenda is reviewed to address current needs and quick wins.

If you are an expatriate residing in these 3 countries and you have used the East Africa Tourist Visa, we would love to hear what your experience has been like.