Immigration reform is a hot topic in America and, it turns out, is also a hot topic in Kenya. In fact, we are being booted out of the country, but only for a little while.
We have been in Kenya just over five months. On the day that we arrived the Kenyan immigration laws pertaining to our family could be summarized as follows:
– Enter the country on a 90 day visitor’s VISA.
– Gain approval from a Kenyan NGO board for the position that you have been hired to fill. To gain approval your employer needs to demonstrate that a Kenyan can not fulfill the duties of your job. Advertisements must be placed in the local newspapers, interviews conducted, etc.
– After NGO board approval, apply for a work permit.
– After work permit is approved, family members apply for a dependent’s permit.
– The work permit is typically good for one to two years but may be extended.
We arrived and as our three month anniversary in Kenya approached, we extended our VISAs for another 90 days. Then the laws changed. There are no longer any extensions for anyone. We have had about six weeks notice. Some of my husband’s co-workers had less than a months notice.
It is interesting to hear the discussions about the new laws. Of course the discussions that we hear and participate in are all with other international NGO workers. This is not good news for any of us and our point of view is highly biased. We all came here with the best of intentions, helping to improve lives, doing work that others can’t, and wanting to be a part of the local community that we live in. I can’t help but think of all the immigrants in America, both legal and illegal, who I imagine would say the same thing. It’s disappointing to be unwanted, to be caught in a growing economy with people battling for jobs, to be a human being used as a political pawn. It’s another unexpected experience for us to live through and hear God’s voice in.
So tomorrow we leave for Nairobi. A little shopping, a little dining out, a movie, my husband will got some work done at the Nairobi office, and yes, sorry all you cold people, some time in the pool. Our family flies to Ethiopia on Saturday. We will be there five days and then return. We will get a new 90 day VISA upon our reentry and wait for a work permit and dependent’s permits to hopefully be forth coming. We are blessed beyond measure. We have the support of my husband’s employer and the financial means to turn this deportation (of sorts) into a vacation. The majority of the immigrants in this world do not have such riches. They only hope and pray to improve their lives.
This new law is a huge expense and inconvenience for the NGOs in Kenya to begin to deal with. Government bureaucracy, inefficiency, and corruption are rampant here. Please keep us and immigrants all over this world in your prayers.
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
– Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV)