The immigration and emigration directorate announced Thursday that Rwandan passport holders have less than a year to use them.
Passports obtained before June 27, 2019, will no longer be valid after June 28 next year. Instead Rwandan travellers falling in this time bracket will be expected to show the East African Community (EAC) Passport.
The EAC bloc includes Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Sudan. The regional leaders adopted the EAC electronic passports planned they would begin to roll out on January 20, 2019, with the old passports to be phased out over a period of two years, and eventually become invalid after January 20, 2021.
To date, Kenya and Tanzania are already using the new generation EAC passport while the other states are at different stages of implementation, including Uganda that is still at the issuing stage since January 2019.
However, people who have successfully secured the new East African passport are very denied visas. This is because numerous countries say the passport has not yet been approved, and this has cost many visa applications. Some embassies still don’t issue visa to such passport holders.
For example, some European and north American embassies in Kenya, where many of them, which serve the region are located, say the new passport features are yet to be incorporated in the foreign immigration systems.
The 2019 index by Henley & Partners, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm, said last year that the EAC national passports were among the weakest in the world.
The Kenyan passport was ranked the most powerful in the region, at position 72, globally, followed by Tanzania’s at 73, Uganda’s at position 76, Rwanda’s at 84, Burundi 92 and South Sudan’s at 97.
With the EAC single passport, the region hopes that its citizens will be treated as one big bloc, and therefore open the region to uniform international travel regimes.
Already, three of the EAC members operate single entry visa for foreigners visiting Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda simultaneously. It is multi-entry within the three countries; however, this expires automatically if a traveler goes outside of the three (3) countries.
Rwanda began issuing the EAC electronic passport in June last year. It is got via the national online portal IREMBO.
The fee for the EAC passport dependents on the category. The categories include ordinary passport for minors valid for two years at Rwf25,000, ordinary 5-year passport with 50 pages at Rwf75,000, ordinary 10-year passport with 66 pages at Rwf100,000 , service passport with 5 year validity for Rwf15,000 and diplomatic passport at Rwf50,000. (Current exchange rate Rwf 954 to USD)