For a foreign investor to enter and stay in Tanzania, the immigration laws require that the individual should have among other things, a passport/travel document and a Work and Residence Permit or Certificate of Exemption issued by the labor and is immigration departments of Tanzania.

Section 16(2) of the Immigration Act clearly states that;

" person shall for gain or reward engage in any trade, business, profession or other occupation except in accordance with the terms of an appropriate permit..."

The legal requirement is that, the person should first have obtained the Work and Residence permit before coming into the country. However, in most cases the processes of obtaining the permits are done once or after the person has entered the country. Typically, in order to get a work and residence permit, company, tax clearances and business licenses need to be obtained and most stakeholders would rather be in the country to sort this out than outside. Furthermore, because of the long process in obtaining residence permits and the need for investors to "get on with business", most are already in country setting up the operations and negotiating partnerships so that when permits arrive, they can already be operational instead of using up more time. It is in such circumstances were Special Passes come into play, which are temporary passes that are issued to a foreigner who is in the country and is in the process of obtaining his or her Work and Residence permits. The role of Special Passes is to allow the person to stay in the country for a period of 60 days (2 months) while processing permits and setting up his or her business affairs. It does not allow one to work for gain.

Special passes are not permits per se, but they merely give investors temporary immigration status for a specific period and are issued upon proof that the individual applying for the special pass is processing his/her work and residence permits.

That being the case, special passes can be obtained only where the person is in the country and are valid for as long as the individual is in the country. The duration of validity of a special pass is 60 days and once the bearer of the special pass leaves the country before the expiry of the 60 days, the special pass ceases to exist. In other words, special pass does not give re-entry rights to the person, it only allows him to stay in the country for the 60 days without having a residence permit.

Additionally, there are also circumstances whereby a foreigner enters the country by obtaining a business visa, which allows the person to stay in the country for a period not exceeding 90 days, during which time the person commences processing his or her work and residence permits. In such cases, we have seen that immigration uses the special pass as a penalty or fine and upon applying for residence permit he/ she will be required to obtain a special pass even when the business visa is still valid. The rationale to this is that, Special Passes are used in case of changing immigration status of the foreigner from Visas to Residential permits, but it is also as a means of penalizing those individuals who apply for their work and residence permit while in the country since this is contrary to the law which provides that applications should be lodged when the applicant is outside the country. Once the special pass is issued in this situation, the previous status that the person had seizes to exist ie the business visa is no longer valid, and the recognized status that will be valid is the Special pass pending receiving of the Residence permit.

There are also scenarios whereby the foreigner overstays his/her permit or Visa, and upon exiting the country, the immigration authority will require him/her to pay (600 USD) for a special pass. Thus, a special pass in such circumstances can be seen as a penalty for overstaying. However, it should be noted that, when paying for a special pass upon exiting the country, the Validity of such pass expires on that very day of departure. This means that a Special pass as a penalty is treated as though the applicant had obtained it from the date his/her previous immigration status expired to the day of departure, to validate his/her overstaying regardless the length or period of overstaying.

Additionally, in the case were a foreigner had overstayed and payed for the special pass on exiting the country, upon re-entry it is advised that he/she only pays for Entry visa (50 USD) then once in the country and after processing applications for permits, pay for the special pass which is intended to last until receiving the permits. Due to lack of information while re-entering the country after previously overstaying, some foreigners find themselves incurring extra cost by paying for Business Visas (USD 250) with intentions of getting more days (90 days) but will later be required to pay for special pass on changing status.

In a nutshell, navigating through the immigration process and application of permits in Tanzania is a hustle in itself, let alone the everchanging regulations and requirements. Without proper knowledge of how the process works, foreign investors and expats may find themselves incurring extra costs on paying for business visas expecting to get longer stays in the country just to later pay more for changing status and the permit itself.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.