Prior to the late 19th century there was nothing that could be considered as an immigration service in Ethiopia. Any foreigner who entered the country would make their way to the court of the Emperor and could then get permission to stay, or as often the case, be ordered to leave. A visitor might also make their way to the court of a local prince or warlord where they might be allowed in some cases to stay and work as a doctor, a military adviser or a missionary at the whim of the prince.
The first attempt to institutionalize the process came during the reign of the Emperor Yohannis IV in 1887 when he insisted that any foreigner entering or leaving the country had to have written document bearing the signature or seal of the Emperor, and addressed to the governor of the frontier region. With this, a foreigner would be welcomed and passed on through the hands of various governors to the Emperor’s seat. The governors had the obligation to shelter, feed, and protect the foreigner from robbers and wild beasts. On completion of the mission, the foreigner would be given an exit letter and escorted out of the country in the same fashion that he entered it.
This process was elaborated and extended under Yohannis’ successor, the Emperor Menilek. In 1908 a proclamation created the first ministerial appointments and set up the set up the first ministries. Included in the Ministry of the Interior was a section with the name of the Security Directorate, given the responsibility of dealing with foreign visitors, as well as issuing Ethiopian passports. This set-up continued up to the Italian invasion. After the end of the Fascist Occupation, in 1941, an Immigration Proclamation was issued, but the relevant department to deal with foreigners remained with minimal organization and a small staff.
After the fall of the monarchy in 1974, the Immigration Department remained under the Ministry of Public Security, but was expanded into a Division in 1980 and had its name changed to the Consular and Immigration Division with wider responsibilities. In 1988, when the Ministry of Interior was established, the department again changed its name to the Immigration and Refugee Affairs Division.
In line with these changes of name, the work of the division was expanded and increased. The immigration process underwent a whole series of changes. Today, it no longer deals with the provision of manual passports. It has adopted electronic passports. This has meant the importation of various devices and equipment to allow the division enabled it to issue its own passports.
Post-1991 and the establishment of the Federal Democratic Republic
When sovereignty was vested in nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia in 1995 by their freely elected representatives who ratified the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) in Proclamation No. 1/1995, the question of the freedom and rights of citizens was given high priority. Among these were the right to freedom of movement of citizens was laid out in detail. The Constitution also clearly lays out the conditions of Ethiopian citizenship, and the process by which foreigners of Ethiopian origin might acquire Ethiopian citizenship.
Following this, the Ethiopian Immigration and Citizenship Department was legally established to facilitate the exercise of the relevant democratic rights and related services detailed in the Constitution within a proper legal framework. According to the Constitutional directive, the Department provides the required immigration services to Ethiopian and foreign citizens in a standardized, efficient and comprehensive manner, consistent with security requirements. Its responsibilities now extend to all aspects of entry and exit to and from the country.
The Department, therefore, now has the responsibility to:
· Ensure legal movement of people
· Issue laissez-passé and visa documents to government employees and short-term residents, employees of the private sector, employees of international and global organizations, employees of the private sector, employees of foreign investors, employees of NGOs, media personnel and journalists, for those attending conferences, investors, tourists and for those in transit.
· Ensure that travel documents, including passports, one-time laissez-passé, urgent travel documents or refugees travel documents are processed and provided in a proper manner.
· Implement Ethiopian Proclamation No. 378/2003 for those without dual citizenship, and any other laws outlined in detail as well as investigate any appeals and questions in collaboration with all concerned and make decisions are made promptly and effectively.
· Register and control foreign nationals in accordance with the power vested in the Department by Immigration Proclamation No. 354/2003; ascertain their legal status and issue residence visas as appropriate; take appropriate action and deal with foreign nationals who do not abide by the national law and regulation.
· Make sure that the necessary services are provided to those who abandon Ethiopian citizenship and take citizenship of another country.
· Give legal status as provided in Proclamation 270/2002 to those who have cancelled their Ethiopian citizenship to enable them contribute to the development of Ethiopia; provide foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin with an identity card valid for five years to allow them to benefit from certain rights within Ethiopia; these can be issued either in Ethiopia or by Ethiopian embassies or missions abroad.
· Provide passports to nationals, and visa extensions, residence permit, or visa renewals to foreign nationals through the six branch offices connected to the Head Office under a system providing regular service. The Department also provides such services as the issuing of passports and birth certificates, and entry visas for foreign nationals at Ethiopian consulates and embassies abroad as well as at entry ports to the country.
· Carry out immigration controls at airports and land ports through a system directly connected with the Department’s Head Office in Addis Ababa. This provides entry visas for citizens of all those countries allowed to obtain visas on arrival at Bole International airport.
Main Department For Immigration & Nationality Affairs
Kebele 05, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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