Kenya and South Sudan have announced an end to visa requirements for their nationals visiting the two countries. The move is aimed at boosting integration between the two countries.

Following the decision, South Sudan nationals travelling to Kenya will be entitled to free entry into the country, as long as they carry a valid passport and meet other health requirements for travellers. Kenyans travelling to South Sudan will also no longer need to apply and pay for South Sudanese visas online before travel.

In a statement, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said the move was in line with existing integration protocol at the East African Community. “This waiver of visa requirement for citizens of the Republic of South Sudan takes effect immediately from the date of this press release,” Kamau added.

South Sudan joined the East Africa Community (EAC) in 2016, but has lagged behind in adopting crucial protocols of the Community including the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocol. These protocols allow for harmonisation of levies, exemption of certain taxes on produces of the region and visa-less movement in the region.

The Principal Secretary further explained that the next step will be to sign a labour agreement to give specified privileges for expatriates. The waiver of the Visa fees, nonetheless, gives an opportunity for Kenyans to seek work in South Sudan as is provided for under the Common Market Protocol.

Officials in Nairobi said the removal of the visa requirement could enhance ties between people “by encouraging free movement of persons and labour which are key pillars in the integration of the East African Community.”