Tanzania Immigration Laws Relaxed at EAC Negotiations

Tanzania immigration laws have historically been some of the strictest in the region, however, these laws have been loosened and Tanzania immigration is now more open as the country has agreed to allow members of the East African Community (EAC) to reside in Tanzania on the condition that they are participating in activities that are beneficial to the Tanzania economy or are seeking employment.

This decision comes after the third round of negotiations of the EAC Common Market Protocol, which was held in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Members of the High Level Task Force (HLTF) for each of the five EAC Partner States (Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda) participated in the negotiations.

According to Mr. Nduwimana Deogratias, the Vice Minister for East African Community Affairs, who spoke on the opening day of the meetings, negotiations were moving forward in an encouraging manner.

He went on to say that he expected this round of negotiations to act as the entry point for discussions about some of the most critical issues and requirements of a Common Market, among which include the outstanding issue on the right of residence and the current Tanzania immigration policies.

The right of residence, especially in terms of Tanzania immigration laws, has been a key issue throughout the negotiation process.

Currently, in order to reside in any EAC Partner State for a period of up to six months, a work permit is required.

Article 27 of the proposed Protocol seeks to address the issue of those who wish to reside in an EAC Partner state for more a period of more than six months.

Initially, Tanzania was opposed to the inclusion of this article, however, according to a statement issued by the EAC Secretariat, at the conclusion of the third round of negotiations Tanzania had lifted its objections and Article 27 had been reinstated.

This step will help to make Tanzania immigration easier for members of the EAC who would like to work in the country.

Tanzania’s decision to relax residency restrictions and to accept that the conditions of the Article 27, is in compliance with the wishes of other EAC member states for open borders, in order to enhance full economic integration in the region.

In an interview with The Citizen, Mr. Mohamed Aboud, the deputy minister for East African Cooperation, said that there was nothing unusual about the announcement made by the representatives for Tanzania.

“In principle,” said Mr. Aboud, “Tanzania has no objection to foreigners working in the country because we are short of doctors, engineers and other experts.”

However, Mr. Aboud continued to say that the Tanzania economic and national interest is of foremost importance and, until the Cabinet in Tanzania has been briefed on the Burundi decision and has analyzed its potential impact on the country, the decision will not take effect in Tanzania.

“If it is decided that the decision will serve national interests, then that would be fine. If not, it will have to be looked into afresh,” said Mr. Aboud.

The EAC Secretariat has set December 2008 as the target date to conclude the Common Market Protocol.

In the meantime, negotiators are requesting an inventory of the status of the draft of the Protocol highlighting the terms that have already been agreed upon as well as a list of the issues that are left to be discussed and those that will need to be referred to the higher policy levels of the EAC.