Kenya: Requirements and procedures to obtain a driver's licence, including residents and non-residents; government authorities responsible for verifying license and driving history (2019–October 2021) [KEN200601.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA)

Since 1 July 2014, the NTSA has been the government authority in Kenya responsible for the licensing of drivers, and any person applying for a driver's licence or driver's record is required to do so from the NTSA (Kenya 30 Aug. 2014; The Standard 13 Aug. 2014).

Sources report that prior to 2014, driver's licences in Kenya were issued and renewed by the Road Transport Department of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) (Kenya 30 Aug. 2014; World Bank 12 May 2021). According to a joint notice by the KRA and the NTSA, all road transport department services were transferred on 1 July 2014 from the KRA to the newly established NTSA (Kenya 30 Aug. 2014).

The same notice states that the NTSA is responsible for the following services:

  1. Registration of motor vehicles and trailers
  2. Licensing of motor vehicles and trailers
  3. Licensing of drivers and conductors
  4. Motor vehicles and drivers records.
  5. Licensing of driving schools and instructors
  6. Transfer of motor vehicle ownership
  7. Issuance of duplicate registration books and driving licenses.
  8. Issuance of motor vehicles copy of records. (Kenya 30 Aug. 2014)

The same notice states that while the above-listed services have been transferred to the NTSA, revenue collection pertaining to all of the above has remained with the KRA (Kenya 30 Aug. 2014).

2. New Smart Driver's Licence

According to sources, Kenya introduced a new smart driver's licence in April 2018 (Kenyans.co.ke 22 Oct. 2020; The Standard [2020]) to replace the old generation booklet-type licences (Kenyans.co.ke 22 Oct. 2020). According to Keesing Technologies' Documentchecker, the old Kenyan driver's licence is a red booklet that measures 80 x 118 mm, contains 10 pages, and includes the following information: first name(s), last name, street, date of birth, bearer's signature, document number, "valid until" date, date of issue, issuing country, authority, and place of issuing; it also has the following security features: authorization features, including a stamp, a watermark, and ultraviolet (UV) light and infrared light features (Keesing Technologies n.d.).

The Traffic Act, last amended in 2018, provides the following:

37. Form of driving and provisional licence

  1. A driving licence shall be in the form of a computerized smart card made of plastic material containing a micro-processor-based chip, and provisional licences shall be in the prescribed form, which shall be impressed with the official stamp of the issuing authority.
  2. The driving licence shall have—
    1. a front side, which shall contain the Personal Identification Number (PIN) and Identity Card Number, photograph, name, date of birth, sex, signature, and licence number of the licence holder, and the class of the vehicle to be driven or restricted; and
    2. a rear side, which shall contain the thumb print of the licence holder, the date of issue per class, the date of expiry per class, conditions and any other information, if any, and the signature and reference number of the issuing authority.
  3. The micro-processor based chip shall contain features for micro-printing, image hosting, ultra-violet printing (logo), the national coat of arms, hologram, and both side lamination.
  4. The micro-processor based chip shall contain the driver's name, biometric information, the photograph, signature, licence number, class of vehicle to be driven or restricted, the date of issue, the date of expiry, conditions or other information, if any, and the signature and reference number of the issuing authority. (Kenya 1953, Sec. 37)

According to an issue brief published by the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) at Strathmore University in Kenya, the NTSA announced in January 2020 that all drivers would have to acquire the new driver's licences before July 2020 (CIPIT [2020], 8). The same source reports that the new smart licence includes information such as the driver's name, blood [type] group, emergency contacts, and KRA pin (CIPIT [2020], 8).

A 2020 article published in Kenyans, a Kenyan media company that writes "original news articles covering politics, sports, business, technology and general news" (Kenyans.co.ke n.d.), provides the following information:

  1. Some of the features to expect in the new generation driving license, include the following.
  2. Your car ownership details such as your car's number plate, your logbook details, among others will be integrated into the Smart [driver's license].
  3. If you are fined for a traffic offense, the new driving license will make it possible for you to pay up the fines through it, since the card will come bundled with an electronic wallet.
  4. The Smart [driver's license] will enable potential employers to access your driving records, especially where your driving ability is important to the job.
  5. Your driving record will be available to insurers. It is expected that your driving profile will play a role in the determination of the premiums a driver should pay.
  6. The cumulative point system will be used to reward or punish you are a driver based on their behaviour on the road. If you hit a certain lower threshold, you will be legally barred from driving until the points are renewed again, after a set period. (Kenyans.co.ke 22 Oct. 2020)

According to TUKO, a Kenyan news platform, the government set a deadline in January 2020 for drivers to apply for the new smart driving licence and gave drivers until 1 July 2020 to acquire it or risk receiving fines, and that manual driving licences would no longer be issued by this date (TUKO.co.ke 20 Jan. 2020).

Information on whether manual driver's licences have now been completely replaced by the newer smart licences could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. However, in 2021 the NTSA posted announcements on its Facebook page noting that that Smart driver's licence registration was "ongoing," including at the Murang'a Huduma Kenya Centre (Kenya 9 Apr. 2021) and the Nanyuki Stadium [in Laikipia] (Kenya 18 Jan. 2021) or that "mass" enrolment was being "undertaken," including in Baringo County (Kenya 9 Feb. 2021).

2.1 Verifying the Authenticity of a Licence

According to the website of the Kenya High Commission in Ottawa, a Kenyan driver's licence can be verified and authenticated at the High Commission by providing the following:

  1. Current valid original Kenyan driver's license, and one photocopy. Renewals can be done online through [eCitizen] if your license has expired.
  2. Formal letter of request.
  3. Copies of passport, ID card, Alien certificate or Refugee ID card.
  4. Processing fee; C$20.00 … (Kenya n.d.a)

A public notice posted on Twitter by the NTSA in July 2016 indicated that drivers could also verify their licence by sending an SMS message to "22846" along with their driver's licence number (Kenya 19 July 2016). Information on whether this service is currently available could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Requirement and Procedures to Obtain a Driver's Licence in Kenya

According to an article published in 2021 by the World Bank, the NTSA launched the Transport Integrated Management Systems (TIMS) electronic data platform in 2016, and provides the following:

TIMS is a sophisticated, yet easy to access digital platform that incorporates motor vehicle registration and transfers, licensing, and inspection in a secure public access online portal. The system provides a cashless, secure, and transparent payment system directly linked to mobile money and internet banking platforms that are now widely used for payment across Kenya. It has an inbuilt short message service (SMS) that updates users on the status of their applications.

Moreover, a secure database that is linked to other government institutions, including Kenya Revenue Authority and the National Registration Bureau, enables the system to automatically verify the personal data of the applicants. (World Bank 12 May 2021)

A September 2021 public announcement by the NTSA, available on their Facebook page, states that the NTSA has "harmonized and synchronized its various service platforms" under the "new" TIMS system, and that "Driver Testing and Licensing" is one of the portals available on their website National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) (Kenya 23 Sept. 2021).

3.1 Residents

According to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Authority, a state corporation in Kenya under the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology (Kenya n.d.b), residents of Kenya have online access through the government's "e-Citizen web portal" to a number of public services offered by various government ministries, including the renewal of driver's licences (Kenya n.d.c). Moreover, the same source reports that the online portal is supplemented by Huduma centres, which are "one-stop-shop citizen service centres that provide efficient [g]overnment [s]ervices at the convenience of the citizen, from a single location" (Kenya n.d.c).

In a post on their Facebook page, the NTSA outlines the following procedure to apply for a Smart driver's license through the Murang'a Huduma Kenya Centre:

STEP 1. Open your TIMS account through [NTSA Citizen Self-Service Portal] using your ID and KRA PIN.

STEP 2[.] Log into your account and go to the Driving License [s]ection.

STEP 3. Click on Apply Smart DL and confirm the driving license details provided. Request correction of information if necessary as all data will be corrected during the bio-metric capturing process.

STEP 4. Make payments and submit your application.

STEP 5. Select ANY available date under Thika Huduma Centre.

Carry your original ID card for identification and verification. (Kenya 11 Mar. 2021, emphasis in original)

In another post on their Facebook page, the NTSA notes that smart driver's licences will be issued for individuals seeking to replace a lost or defaced license and explains the following procedure:

To replace a lost or defaced [driver's licence], one is required to:

  1. Open a free TIMS account on [National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA)]. When opening the account, ensure all the information provided is correct and if you experience any challenges, contact the nearest NTSA office for assistance. …
  2. Visit any of the following NTSA offices for the Smart [driver's license] application and personalization process.

The offices are:

MVI Likoni Road (Nairobi), Nakuru, Mombasa (Imara Building), Kisumu, Kisii, Machakos, Eldoret, Thika and Nyeri offices.

During the application process, the system will generate an invoice of [Kenyan Shillings (KES)] 3,050 [C$34.60]. All payments shall be made online. NTSA does not accept any cash payments. The validity period for the [driver's license] will be 3 (three) years.

On completion of the application process, one will be advised when to collect the [driver's license]. (Kenya 26 May 2018)

Section 30(4) of the Traffic Act provides the following: "Driving licences shall be issued, and upon expiry renewed on production, by a licensing officer upon payment of the prescribed fee, and a driving licence so issued or renewed may be expressed to be valid for a period of three years, from the date of issue or renewal" (Kenya 1953).

3.2 Non-residents

According to TUKO, a non-resident who has moved to Kenya may be able to apply for a driver's licence or to convert a foreign licence to a Kenyan licence, if they are the holder of a valid driver's licence granted by a competent authority in a member country of the Commonwealth (TUKO.co.ke 17 Sept. 2018). The NTSA web portal indicates that an "ID number is mandatory for Kenyan [c]itizens and [f]oreign [c]ertificate [i]ndividual number for non citizens, [v]isit Huduma [c]entre to apply for another ID and department of [i]mmigration for your [f]oreigner [c]ertificate" (Kenya n.d.d).

4. Recourse for Refusal of License

The Traffic Act provides that the following recourse is available in the event of a license being refused by the authorities:

Any person who is aggrieved by the refusal of the Authority or a licensing officer to grant a licence may, after giving to the Authority notice of his intention so to do [sic], appeal to a subordinate court of the first or second class, which shall after considering the grounds for such refusal make such order as it thinks fit, and any order so made shall be binding on the Authority. (Kenya 1953, Sec. 31(3))

Further information on recourse, including instances of appeals and their outcomes, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT), Strathmore University. [2020]. Use Case 2 Driving Licenses: A Use Case and Issue Brief Prepared by CIPIT. [Accessed 13 Sept. 2021]

Keesing Technologies. N.d. Keesing Documentchecker. "Kenya – KEN – Driving Licence RB1." [Accessed 1 Oct. 2021]

Kenya. 23 September 2021. National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). "Update on NTSA Service Synchonization." Facebook. [Accessed 7 Oct. 2021]

Kenya. 9 April 2021. National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). "Smart DL Enrollment Ongoing at the Murang'a Huduma Kenya Centre." Facebook. [Accessed 7 Oct. 2021]

Kenya. 11 March 2021. National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). "Smart DL Update." Facebook. [Accessed 7 Oct. 2021]

Kenya. 9 February 2021. National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). "Residents of Baringo County and It's Environs Have an Opportunity to #MoveToSmart." Facebook. [Accessed 7 Oct. 2021]

Kenya. 18 January 2021. National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). "Mass #SmartDL Enrollment Ongoing at the Nanyuki Stadium from Today Monday 18th to Friday 22nd January, 2021." Facebook. [Accessed 7 Oct. 2021]

Kenya. 26 May 2018. National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). "NTSA Advisory on the Smart Driving Licence." Facebook. [Accessed 7 Oct. 2021]

Kenya. 19 July 2016. National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). "Online Verification of NTSA Documents Using SMS Code 22846." Twitter. [Accessed 28 Sept. 2021]

Kenya. 30 August 2014. Embassy of the Republic of Kenya in Japan. "Public Notice: Transfer of Road Transport Department Services of Kenya Revenue Authority to National Transport & Safety Authority." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2021]

Kenya. 1953 (amended 2018). The Traffic Act. CAP. 403. [Accessed 13 Sept. 2021]

Kenya. N.d.a. Kenya High Commission in Ottawa. "Authentication/Verification of Kenya Driver's License." [Accessed 21 Sept. 2021]

Kenya. N.d.b. Information and Communication Technology Authority (ICT). "About ICT Authority." [Accessed 21 Sept. 2021]

Kenya. N.d.c. Information and Communication Technology Authority (ICT). "E-Services." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2021]

Kenya. N.d.d. National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). "Frequently Asked Questions." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2021]

Kenyans.co.ke. 22 October 2020. Eddy Mwanza. "NTSA Announces New Smart Driving License Registration Dates at Huduma Centres." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2021]

Kenyans.co.ke. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 21 Sept. 2021]

The Standard. [2020]. "How to Get the New Digital Driving License." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2021]

The Standard. 13 August 2014. Peter Kiragu. "National Transport and Safety Authority Takes Over Road Transport Roles." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2021]

TUKO.co.ke. 20 January 2020. Erick Kombo Ndubi. "CS Fred Matiangi'i Gives Drivers Until July 1 to Get Digital Driving Licenses." [Accessed 29 Sept. 2021]

TUKO.co.ke. 17 September 2018. Pauline Taji. "How to Get an International Driving License Kenya." [Accessed 21 Sept. 2021]

World Bank. 12 May 2021. "How Digital Integration Has Transformed Kenya's Transport Sector." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2021]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Kenya – eCitizen, embassy in Washington, DC, High Commission in Ottawa, National Transport and Safety Authority.

Internet sites, including: ABC Expat; BBC; Business Daily; Factiva; Kenyan Magazine; Kenya News Agency; NEXT Insurance; Reuters; The Times.