US reverses digital passport visa application rule

The United States government has rescinded its decision to disallow visa applications for Kenyans with old passports, temporarily, in what could offer relief to those struggling to get the new electronic travel documents.

On Wednesday, an Embassy spokesperson said applications will continue as usual until the public is informed otherwise.

“Visa applicants may apply for a US visa with a non-digital Kenyan passport. We will place a US visa in a non-digital passport until further notice. Holders of current US visas do not need to take any action,” the Embassy said on Twitter.

The Embassy did not explain reasons for the about-turn, but Kenyans had complained on social media platforms on the difficulty of obtaining the e-passport as the country rushes to beat the global deadline.

The Mission had said on Tuesday it would not give visas to Kenyans with old passports even though applicants were allowed to book interviews with the old document.

“We can only place a US visa in a new passport. You may make an appointment with your current passport but you will need to obtain an e-passport before we can issue a visa,” a spokesperson at the Embassy said on Tuesday.

Those with valid visas but in old passports will not be allowed into the US unless they carry with them e-passports, the spokesperson had said.

On Wednesday, this regulation was also lifted and those with valid visas can proceed to the US even if they have only the non-digital passport.

As usual, however, applicants for visas must have a valid passport, of at least six months.

Embedded with an electronic chip, the e-passport is part of global efforts to curb travel fraud by making it harder to forge a passport.

For the East African region, countries agreed to have a blue cover passport to symbolise the shared Lake Victoria, and unity of the East African Community.

It comes with a data page as the old one, but carries a chip with details of the holder, preventing usual damages the old one was prone to.

Once fully in place, some travellers may be able to self-clear at airports, cutting queues at the immigration sections.

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