General Information Entry and Exit Requirements
Banking Intellectual Property
Business Etiquette Tips Legal and Registration of a Business Entity
Embassy Locations and Registration Safety and Crime
Employment-Legal Requirements Taxes

General Information

KenyaKenya is regarded by many as the "jewel of East Africa," and it is home to some of the continent's finest beaches, most magnificent wildlife, and scenery. The capital city is Nairobi. The second largest city is Mombasa, located on the southeast coast. Tourist facilities are widely available throughout Kenya, and the country boasts an incredibly sophisticated tourism infrastructure that also includes game parks, reserves, and the coast.  Above all, Kenya is a place for safaris, and one-tenth of all land in Kenya is designated as national parks and reserves. Just about every African plains animal is present, and there are more than 50 parks and reserves stretching from the deserts to the mountain forest.

The United States and Kenya have enjoyed cordial relations since Kenya's independence. Relations became even closer after Kenya's democratic transition of 2002 and subsequent improvements in human rights. Kenya possesses a fascinatingly diverse population with around 40 different tribes, all with their own languages and cultures. A mixture of African and Asian, the unique Swahili culture can be found along the balmy coast, where for centuries it was known for its prosperity from seafaring commerce.

There may be political unrest and/or targeted crime against visitors to the country, however. Travelers should check with the U.S. State Department Web site for current travel safety information.

Major Cities Capital:  Nairobi
Major cities: Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret
Official Currency Kenyan shilling (KES)
Time Zone UTC+3 (eight hours ahead of Washington, D.C. during Standard Time)
Language English (official), Swahili (national), over 40 other languages from the Bantu, Nilotic, and Cushitic linguistic groups


Legal System and Government

Type of legal system: The Kenyan legal system is based upon Kenyan statutory law, Kenyan and English common law, tribal law, and Islamic law; judicial review in High Court; accepts compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction with reservations; constitutional amendment of 1982 making Kenya a de jure one-party state repealed in 1991.

Form of Government




Available Banking Services

Online banking
Banking in English
Overdraft protection

Bank Holidays

New Year's Day 
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Labor Day   
Madaraka Day (responsibility day)
End of Ramadan
Moi day
Kenyatta's Day
Eid-ul-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
Independence Day (Jamhuri)
Christmas Day
Boxing Day

U.S. and Other Major Banks in Country

(Note:  Addresses and contact information subject to change.)

Barclays Bank Ltd.
Barclays Plaza
P.O. Box 30120
Nairobi, Kenya
Phone: +254-2 332230
Fax: +254-2 213915

Upper Hill Road, Upper Hill
P.O. Box 30711
Nairobi 00100, Kenya
Phone: +254-20  2711 221
Fax:    +254-20  2714 810


Business Etiquette Tips

Business Attire

Conservative business attire is common for both men and women.

Business Negotiations

Kenya is a group-oriented culture where relationship-building is an important first step in establishing business liaisons. Kenyans value tradition, and they will be interested in the historical framework or context of a new idea or process. They will ask for clarification until they are comfortable before proceeding to the next topic.

Proper Greetings

Initial greetings are somewhat prolonged and include inquiries about one another's health, family, and business. Handshakes are the most common greeting in both business and social settings. When meeting someone of a higher status or obviously older than you, lowering your eyes is considered a sign of respect. When greeting women, men should wait for a woman to extend her hand first. Use of any academic or professional titles with the surname is also a sign of respect. First names should not be used unless your host invites you to do so. 

Public and Social Behavior

Close female friends may hug and kiss once on each cheek instead of shaking hands. When greeting an elder or someone of higher status, grasp the right wrist with the left hand while shaking hands to demonstrate respect. Muslim men and women do not always shake hands with other women and men. The most common greeting is "Jambo?" ("How are you?"). 

If you are invited to dinner, Kenyan table manners are relatively formal. In some instances, the guest of honor may have been reserved a special place at the table, and he or she will be served their meal first. But the meal does not formally begin until the eldest male has been served and starts eating. All guests are expected to wash their hands before and after the meal.

Scheduling Appointments

Appointments are generally necessary, and the overall structure and formality of the meeting will depend upon the ownership of the company.  British- or Indian-owned companies typically follow strict agendas whereas Kenyan companies may not end a meeting until the business at hand is successfully concluded.


Embassy Locations and Registration 

A passport and visa are required. Visas should be obtained in advance, though airport visas are available. Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect delays upon arrival. There is a fee for the visa, whether obtained in advance or at the airport.  Evidence of yellow fever immunization may be requested. Travelers to Kenya and neighboring African countries should ensure that the validity of their passports is at least six months beyond the end of their intended stay and that their passport contains sufficient blank pages for visas and immigration stamps.

Americans living or traveling in Kenya are encouraged to register with the U.S. embassy through the State Department's travel registration Web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Kenya. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

(Note:  Addresses and contact information subject to change.)

Embassy of Kenya
2249 R Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Phone: 202.387.6101

U.S Embassy
United Nations Avenue
Nairobi, Kenya
Phone: (254) (20) 363-6000  After hours: (254) (20) 363-6170
Fax:    (254)(20) 363-6410


Employment-Legal Requirements

A typical work week consists of 40 hours and five days a week for full-time employment.  A reasonable amount of overtime is permitted, and there are no limitations on employees working nights, weekends, or holidays. 

A written employment contract is required for any work performed that requires more than three months of service, thereby differentiating an independent contractor from an employee. If the contract is not for an indefinite period of time then the term should be specified. 

Terminating Employees

Casual or temporary employees (less than one month's employment) can be terminated at the end of the day without notice as long as proper payment is made. Dismissal during a probationary period-which may not legally extend beyond a six-month maximum-does not require adherence to specific regulations other than ensuring the employee fully understands they have been terminated. It is the employer's duty to ensure that if an employee does not understand the written notice it is explained to them in their language orally.

The burden of proof is on the employer to show just cause for terminating an employment contract. Proof of termination and just cause or proof of misconduct is required prior to terminating an employee. Termination of local employees (who are members of local trade unions) under contract requires that the employer notify and have a union representative available during termination proceedings. 

In cases of redundancy, employers are required to provide a minimum of one month's notice or one month's pay and severance pay of no less than 15 days per each year of service.

Legally Mandated Benefits and Leave

Annual Vacation Leave 21 days
Sick Leave 7 days (available after two months of employment at 100 percent pay. Seven days (additional, if required)  at 50% pay and medical proof of illness required
Holidays 11 days
Maternity Leave 3 months
Paternity Leave 2 weeks


(Additional note: Employers are required to provide housing and water to employees at the employer's expense if these are not provided for in employees' contract of service.)


Entry and Exit Requirements

Any foreigner who intends to work in Kenya requires an appropriate entry permit before he or she can commence work. This is issued by the Kenyan Personnel Bureau of the Immigration Department, which is part of the Office of the President.

Although a visa can be obtained in 7 to 14 days it is highly recommended that a minimum of one month be allotted to allow time for processing. An original U.S. passport (with a minimum of six months of remaining validity) and two passport-quality photos are the primary requirements for obtaining a standard visa.

Registration of Aliens

Any foreigner planning to stay in Kenya for longer than three months should register under the Alien Registration Act. Upon registration the individual receives a form of identity card stating name, address, and other particulars.


Intellectual Property 

Kenya is a member of the African Regional Industrial Property Office (ARIPO). This is a regional organization of 12 countries including Kenya, Zimbabwe, The Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Botswana, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Swaziland, Malawi, and Zambia. Inventors wishing to protect their inventions in these countries may file one application in Kenya and designate any or all of them.

Nature of Rights and Terms


An application for a patent should relate to one invention only or to a group of inventions that are linked to form a single general inventive concept. A patent expires at the end of 20 years from the filing date of the application. Maintenance fees are due on an annual basis in order to maintain patent protection.

Utility Patents

Utility model refers to any form, configuration, or disposition of element of some appliance, utensil, tool, electrical and electronic circuitry, instrument, mechanism, or other object or part of the same allowing better or improved functioning, use, or manufacture of the subject matter or that gives some utility, advantage, environmental benefit, saving, or technical effect not previously available in Kenya. It can include micro-organisms or other self-replicable material, products of genetic resources, and herbal as well as nutritional formulations. A utility model certificate expires at the end of the 10th year after the date of the grant of the utility model, and it is not renewable. 

But at any time before the grant or refusal of a utility model certificate, an applicant for a utility model certificate may, upon payment of the prescribed fees, convert his application into a patent application, which will be accorded the filing date of the initial application.

International Patent Applications

Obtaining a Kenyan patent does not protect your invention in another country. For international protection a foreign patent application is necessary. You may apply for a foreign patent through the Institute, Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) under the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). A single PCT application covers over 100 countries of the world. Or you may apply through the African Regional Industrial Property Organization (ARIPO) to cover the following 14 African countries: Botswana, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone.

Industrial Design Patents

The duration of protection conferred by a certificate of registration for an industrial design is five years from the date of filing of the application for registration. The registration, however, may be renewed for two further consecutive periods of five years upon payment of a renewal fee. A registered design is a property, which like any other business commodity may be bought, sold, hired, or licensed.

An industrial design is defined as "any composition of lines or colors or any three dimensional form whether or not associated with lines or colors, provided that such composition or form gives a special appearance to a product of industry or handicraft and can serve as pattern for a product of industry or handicraft."  In other words an industrial design is concerned only with the outward appearance (eye appeal) of articles as defined by their shape, configuration, pattern, or ornament. It must be understood that an industrial design does not protect the method of construction or the function of the article.


A trademark registration is valid for 10 years from the date of application. Six months prior to the expiry of the 10 years the registrar will notify the owner of the trademark of the imminent expiry of the concerned trademark. The owner may then apply for a renewal that covers the next 10 years, and the renewal can continue every 10 years thereafter upon payment of a renewal fee.

A trademark is a distinctive sign that serves to distinguish the goods of an industrial or a commercial enterprise or a group of such enterprises. The sign may consist of one or more distinctive works or combination thereof as well as letters, numbers, drawings, or pictures, monograms, signatures, colors, or a combination of colors.

Below is contact information to obtain detailed steps and information on applying for intellectual property protection: 

(Note:  Addresses and contact information subject to change)

Patent Office-Ministry of Trade and Industry
Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI)
Kapiti Road
P.O. Box 51648
Nairobi South C
Phone: (254 20) 60 22 10/11
Fax:    (254 20) 606312

Copyright Office-Attorney General's Chambers
Department of the Registrar-General
P.O. Box 30031
Phone: (254 20) 22 74 61
Fax:  (254 20) 21 10 82


The owner of a patent has the right to obtain an injunction against willful infringement of his patent by any person without his authorization and to claim damages and compensation for such action. The patent owner is required to advise the individual of the infringement through written notice identifying the application by serial number. 


It is the duty and full responsibility of the owner to monitor the market and to institute legal proceedings if someone is infringing on a registered trademark or is using a deceptively similar trademark likely to cause confusion. One of the major functions of the trademarks office is to prevent anyone else from registering a mark that is the same as or confusingly similar to another. The KIPI does not police trademarks.


Legal and Registration of a Business Entity

Registration formalities (Including Timing)

Kenya has established a one-stop business registration shop to help streamline the process known as Kenya Investment Authority (KIA). Some estimates of how long it takes to register a business are as low as three days, though a minimum of 30 days is a more realistic estimate. The typical forms of business structure within Kenya are a registered company, foreign branch office, partnership, sole proprietorship, or a co-operative office. 

Generally, a company incorporated outside Kenya (a foreign entity) conducts business in Kenya through a branch office. Establishing a branch office requires the following documents and information to be submitted to the Registrar of Companies:

Audited financial statements should also be delivered to the Registrar of Companies. While there is no formal requirement for the statements to be audited, the tax authorities are generally reluctant to accept unaudited ones. Upon receipt and approval, the Registrar of Companies will issue a "Certificate of Compliance," a requirement to obtain the proper trading licenses.

In addition to the resources listed below, the World Bank's Web site also contains valuable information for establishing an overseas office.


 Safety and Crime

There is potential for political unrest and spontaneous violence in various areas of Kenya.  Travelers are encouraged to carefully research the current travel warnings on the U.S. State Department Web sites and other sources on information to ensure travel.

Most major tourist attractions, particularly outside Nairobi, are not generally affected by political unrest. But travelers should maintain security awareness at all times and avoid public gatherings and street demonstrations. Note that demonstrations tend to occur near government buildings, university campuses, and gathering places such as public parks.  Police are not always able to properly manage these demonstrations, and they may resort to excessive force to break up large crowds. Visitors are advised to stay up-to-date on local news, stay abreast of any curfews in place, and check with local authorities and the U.S. State Department Web site prior to travelling to a new area.



The term employee refers to both resident and nonresident individuals. It also includes an employee who retires on pension and stays in Kenya where pensions received from a registered pension fund exceed certain limits. Any income that accrues in Kenya will be taxed. The tax year is the same as the calendar year in Kenya (January 1st through December 31st).

Individual and Employee Taxation

Determining Tax Residence

A person with a permanent home in Kenya who is present for more than 183 days during a calendar year or an individual with no permanent residence but who was present in a calendar year and each of the two preceding years for periods averaging more than 122 days in each year of income and receiving income is considered a resident for tax purposes. A resident is liable for Kenyan income tax at the normal graduated rates on income from employment with a resident employer or a Kenyan permanent establishment of a nonresident employer.

All income accrued in Kenya is taxable whether an individual is a resident or nonresident. Employment income is widely defined and includes fringe benefits as well as after-tax income received from foreign employment sources. 

Tax deduction amounts vary, but they are available for mortgage interest payments, pension contributions, and life insurance premiums, along with certain minimum deductions.  More information regarding current tax deductions and rates can be found at through the Kenya Revenue Authority's Web site.

Corporate and Employer Tax Obligations


The "pay as you earn" (PAYE) method of deducting income tax from salaries and wages applies to all income from any office or employment. Thus PAYE applies to weekly wages, monthly salaries, annual salaries, bonuses, commissions, directors' fees (whether the director is resident or nonresident), and any other income from an office or employment. Employers are not responsible for payment of PAYE for the casual employee employed for a period of less than one month. 

(Note: All entities and individuals are required to register for and obtain a PIN, which is a unique, computer generated number that identifies person/company.) 

Tax Residency for a Business

Corporate tax residence is determined by whether or not a company is  incorporated under the laws of Kenya, if management and control of the company is exercised in Kenya (particularly during the current year), and whether the company has been declared by the Minister, by notice in the Kenya Gazette, to be resident in Kenya for any year of income.

Corporate Taxes

Kenyan income tax is payable at the corporate rate by companies and also by unincorporated organizations and associations (excluding partnerships) that have taxable income as defined by the Income Tax Act. Exemptions are granted in the case of religious, charitable, and educational trusts, pension trusts, and some other bodies. 

Tax Exemption

An organization of good public character and established solely for the advancement of education or religion, or that provides for the alleviation of distress or relief of poverty to the public or is of benefit to Kenyan residents may apply for tax exemption status.


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