research permit

Applying for a research permit in Tanzania by youjinbchung

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One of things that worried me the most about starting my fieldwork was obtaining a research permit from the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH). I have heard so many nightmarish stories about the research clearance process -- how it's so difficult to get in contact with COSTECH, how the overall process is unclear, how there's so much bureaucratic red tape, etc. There's actually a lot of information about the research clearance process floating on the web -- some useful, some not useful...  I'll just write about my own experience here (while my memory is still fresh), with the hope that it will help other researchers in the future.

Here's what I did:

1. Apply for a research associateship with the University of Dar es Salaam

As I was conducting my pre-dissertation fieldwork (2013-2014), I spent a lot of time building relationships with local academics and researchers. In summer 2014, I established an informal affiliation with the Department of Geography at UDSM through a faculty member, with whom I had shared research interests in land/resource politics. I got in touch with her again around May 2015 (once I had secured my fieldwork funding) and asked if she could serve as my local advisor in support of my formal affiliation at UDSM (the affiliation is officially called 'research associateship').

Here are the documents required for applying for a research associateship at UDSM:

  • Application Form (let me know if this link doesn't work)
  • Research Proposal (one page in length, 4 copies)
  • CV
  • Names and Addresses of 2-3 Referees
  • Photographs (no specific size requirement, 2 copies)
  • Invitation letter from a local advisor

I sent these documents via email to Noela, the administrative assistant at the Vice Chancellor's Office for Research, on 11 July 2015, and mailed a hard copy to the following address the next day:

The Deputy Vice Chancellor Research University of Dar es Salaam P.O. Box 35091 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

I heard from my local advisor about a month later (18 Aug), who said I needed to transfer the $200 application fee. The Bank details for UDSM can be found in the application form. I transferred the funds online through Bank of America; it went through in about two days (N.B. BoA charged me $35 fee for international transfers). About three weeks later (9 Sep, two days after arriving in Dar), I was informed by Noela that my research associateship was approved.

A week later (16 Sep), I met with my local advisor who handed me a packet of documents to take to COSTECH to apply for an official research permit. The packet included a letter from UDSM introducing me to COSTECH, and the other documents I had submitted to the university back in July (i.e. one copy of the photograph, one copy of my research proposal, CV and references, invitation letter from my local advisor).

2. Apply for Research Permit at COSTECH

I saved some time by depositing the research permit fee ($300) before going into the COSTECH offices. If you want the bank account details, let me know and I can share this information with you. You just need to go to any National Bank of Commerce (NBC) branch, fill in the cash deposit slip, and deposit the fee in US dollars. Remember to keep the receipt!

Once you arrive at COSTECH, you will sign a guest book at the entrance of the building. The building itself isn't really welcoming, and the offices are not signposted. Walk up to the the second floor, go through the corridor on the right, and enter room number C1. There was one lady processing the documents and one man (Mr Mushi); I don't know his exact title, but he is the one who has the authority to issue the research permits on behalf of the Director General (I think). They were both very lovely -- speaking Swahili helped a great deal. After reviewing my documents, Mr Mushi directed me to go downstairs to room B6 to submit the receipt I got from NBC. This took maybe 5 minutes. Once I came back with my receipt, my research permit was all ready to go! I was given three documents:

  • Research Permit
  • Cover Letter from COSTECH to Immigration Services
  • Tanzania Immigration Department Residence Permit Datasheet

I need to take all these documents to Immigration Services Department HQ in Dar (Kurasini) to apply for my Class C Residence Permit. I'll more about this later...

In sum, the research clearance process isn't so complicated as long as you have a good institutional affiliation, have a lot of patience, pay the fees in time, and try to do things face-to-face once you are in the country (and speak Swahili as much as you can!). Another important tip is to bring a lot of US$ with you for the initial months. It doesn't sound so safe to be carrying thousands of dollars, but a lot of these official documents require fees to be paid in US$, and the ATMs here charge a lot of fees (BoA charges something like $11 every time I withdraw cash).