Research permits in Tanzania… An Idiot’s Guide

Why an Idiot’s Guide?

HALI, as a collaborative research program, supports the development of Tanzanian scientists to conduct research in Tanzania.   We also engage a few foreign researchers in our activities, including the authors.  For our Tanzanian colleagues, obtaining research permits seems to be pretty straightforward.  They submit a proposal/application, it is reviewed, and if approved, all required forms and fees are signed and delivered and the permit is issued.  For us foreigners, however, the permit process can seem daunting.  Over the past several years (and following the launch of four new research projects in Tanzania), we have noticed that there is a deficit of readily accessible information online with regard to research permits for foreigners.  Yes, there are official webpages, blog posts, lists, snippets, and posted files, but nothing that appears current or comprehensive for all permitting authorities.  And so we offer up this guide…

By the way, HALI is not affiliated with the permitting authorities in Tanzania, and this guide should not be viewed as a definitive resource; rather as a reference point to help researchers plan and prepare for the permitting process.  Now with that little disclaimer aside, let’s get started…

Note: the HALI team will try to update this guide regularly to keep it current.  If you have any questions or feedback, please contact the HALI team.

The Backpack

For you independent types just wanting some quick resources to get started, here are some essential resources to keep handy before orientation…   Feel free to skip the Orientation (FAQ) below if you’re good to go with the Backpack.

Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) Research Guidelines (PDF download)

TAWIRI Application Forms (PDF download)

Tanzania Comission of Science and Technology (COSTECH) website

COSTECH application form

COSTECH Curriculum Vitae form

National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR website)

Residency permit information

Tanzania Conservation Resource Centre (CRC)non-profit crew supporting foreign students and researchers

Residence Permit form (PDF download)

Now that you’re all packed up and ready to go, let’s head down to the orientation!

Orientation (FAQ)

Do I need a research permit?

If you are going to be conducting independent research, or are part of a team conducting independent research, it is highly recommended that you apply for a permit.  It is both illegal and unethical to conduct research without notifying the regulatory authorities.  Oh, and if you haven’t already, you will need a local partner to act as your contact in Tanzania.  As a collaborative project, HALI works with multiple local partners from Sokoine University of Agriculture, to the National Institute of Medical Research, and the Tanzania National Parks.

What kind of research permit do I need?

Well, what kind of research are you conducting?  HALI for example has several different research branches: human health, domestic animal health, wildlife health, environmental science and ecology, and socio-economics.  Each of these research projects are part of the HALI program, but have different associated permits.  Our human health work for example has ethical clearance through the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) with corresponding Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval from UC San Francisco; the wildlife research is permitted through the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) with Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) approval; and all research is ultimately authorized by the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH).  First, identify all of the components of your research, then try and ascertain which permitting authorities you will need approval from.

How do I apply for a research permit?

OK, this depends on the type of permit you need.  Let’s use wildlife research as an example.  All wildlife research must be permitted through TAWIRI, and if you plan on working in a national park, then Tanzania National Parks approval is also required.  But don’t forget COSTECH; wildlife research is a trifecta!

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Check out TAWIRI’s website for the most current application forms.  This site is often down, with the PDF’s of applications unavailable for download, but you should check anyway. Here are the COSTECH and TAWIRI Application Forms in case the site isn’t working.
  2. Read the TAWIRI Research Guidelines.  This is the gold-standard to understanding the process.  It’s in your Backpack right?
  3. Get cracking on your proposal.  It has to have an Introduction, Problem Statement, Lit. review, Objectives, Hypotheses, Methods, and a Bibliography.
  4. Fill out the COSTECH application form and Curriculum Vitae form.  Look in your Backpack.  It’s all there right?
  5. Get 3 passport size photographs of your smiley face.
  6. A local contact to sponsor your research in Tanzania.
  7. Submit package to TAWIRI at least 6 months prior to your proposed start of research.
  8. Follow-up regularly on the status of the application.
Steps #6 and 7 are critical.  You need patience and follow-through.  TAWIRI meets a few regularly scheduled times a year to review applications, but the meeting times are subject to change.  You may wait longer than 6 months, or if you are lucky, your permit may be approved very quickly depending on the time of submission and when TAWIRI holds their meeting. It’s best to play it safe and schedule 6 months in your timeline for approval.  Then you’re onto COSTECH (see below).

What if my research has nothing to do with animals HALI?

You still need a COSTECH permit for research, and if your research includes medical components you need ethical clearance from the National Institute of Medical Research (NIRM) – check your Backpack.  Let’s start with the COSTECH process:

  1. Download the COSTECH application form and Curriculum Vitae form.
  2. Develop your research proposal.  Though COSTECH does not specify a format, it is good practice to follow TAWIRI’s proposal format above.
  3. Get 3 passport size photographs of your smiley face.
  4. Submit package to COSTECH at least 2 months prior to your proposed start of research.
  5. Follow-up regularly on the status of the application.
Again, I cannot stress #5 enough. My first COSTECH permit took almost a full year to get in-hand.  Email is not the greatest, phone is better, and as a last resort, just walk into the COSTECH office in Dar and say hello.  An in-person visit can sometimes get you the permit within a few hours vs. waiting and practicing your patience from afar.

Wait, you said I needed ethical clearance for medical research.  Is this in addition to my own institution’s IRB?

Yes.  Yes it is.  Visit the NIMR website for more information on ethical clearance.

Are there any other permits I need?

Of course there are.  Now that you’re on the road to research clearance, you need to sort out your living status on foreign soil.  Welcome to immigration.  As a researcher you qualify for a Class C residence permit.  The Class C is a special permit for researchers, and lasts up to one year.  You will be able to apply for the permit once your COSTECH permit (and TAWIRI/NIMR permits if applicable) has been granted.  Here’s what you will need for the package:

  1. A Class C residence permit application
  2. A cover letter summarizing your reason for applying
  3. A CV or resume
  4. Copy of passport including present immigration status (e.g. Visa if applicable)
  5. Copy of all relevant permits for research
  6. 4 passport photos
Once you’re all set, you need to go to Dar es Salaam and find the new Immigration headquarters (Ministry of Home Affairs).  It’s by the stadium, take a taxi, bring some reading material, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

OK, I have a sweet backpack, the skills and the knowledge.  Am I ready for my permits?

Almost, but first we need to review the fees.

Fees for a 1 year permit (as of March 2011):

  • TAWIRI: $1,200 USD (can vary, also listed as 20% of operational research budget – consult TAWIRI for exact amount)
  • COSTECH: $350 ($50 for application fee, $300 for actual permit)
  • COSTECH for undergraduate research: $150 ($50 for application fee, $100 permit)
  • Immigration: $200
  • NIMR: TBD

I have my permits, and I’ve started research.  How do I make everyone happy so that I get my permits renewed?

It’s a little tricky.  With COSTECH you have to report quarterly.  There is no format specified, so a written update works fine.  I submitted my COSTECH quarterly reports as Word.doc files via email.  At the end of the project, you must submit all publications resulting from the research to COSTECH as well (both electronic and hard copies if avaialble).

With TAWIRI, there is a more standardized process.  Annual review of research is conducted by TAWIRI and requires:

  • An annual progress report
  • A COSTECH application form for extension of research
  • 3 passport photos
  • A letter from your local contact
  • Fees (same as for initial permit)

This package must be submitted at least 3 months prior to the expiration of your permit.  The format for the progress report should include the project title, introduction, objective & hypotheses, study area, methods, results, discussion (and practical implications for conservation), and references.

We are still unclear on the reporting procedure (if any) and renewal criteria for ethical clearance through NIMR.  I’ll post an update on that element when the information is available.

Wow, that’s a lot of work.  Can’t someone do all this for me?

Sure.  There is actually a great resource for foreign researchers based in Arusha.  The Conservation Resource Centre (CRC) has a lot of experience helping foreigners navigate the permitting process, and even provides field and logistical support for your activities.  They will help you meet your deadlines, stay on top of the agencies to get your permits approved, and facilitate your residence permits with Immigration.  Contact the CRC and ask for Dassa (crc.tanzania (at) gmail.com). She’s super nice and has been a great advocate for HALI.

Gee thanks HALI, that was really helpful.  How can I ever repay you?

Aw, shucks, I’m blushing.  How about you take this survey?

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12 thoughts on “Research permits in Tanzania… An Idiot’s Guide

  1. Hello David, thank you for sharing this helpful guide. Just some additional questions:

    Were you in Tanzania when you applied for the research permits (submitted forms/paid money)? I need to get a research permit from the Costech, but wonder whether it is possible/advisable or not to handle this through an embassy of Tanzania.

    Looking forward to your response,

    Anton van Wijk

    • Thanks for the link Emma,

      It is true that there are new TAWIRI guidelines available, and the requirements and application process for residency permits have also changed. We’ll be posting some updated information on research permits in the near future.

      The HALI team

      • Hi David,
        Is it possible that you could give us the updated info on the residency permit application process? I already have approval from COSTECH and NIMR for my research but was told the new residency permit process is more complicated and longer. Any info you have to share would be greatly appreciated!

      • Hi Adrienne,

        The residency permit application process seems to be a moving target and has changed a few times over the years. We have had the most success simply showing up at the Ministry of Home Affairs Immigration Services Department offices (http://immigration.go.tz/index1.php) in Dar es Salaam (Physical Location: Loliondo Street Kurasini) and seeking council directly from the officers there. They have been in the process of changing from a paper-based to an electronic record system, which has caused some understandable delays, and the in-person approach is the most reliable way to ensure your permits are issued. It will take time, likely 1 or 2 full days if the office is busy. With residency permit renewals, we have also been unsuccessfully renewing permits in District level immigration offices as they refer foreigners to Dar for processing.

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for the blog, its very helpful. I am trying to apply for my research permit with COSTECH at the moment and none of the phone numbers advertised on the website and application form appear to be in service. No one has answered any of my emails either. Would you happen to know of an alternative phone number, the one I have is +255-22-2700745/46

    Thanks
    Aisling O’Loghlen

    • Hi Aisling,
      The phone number I have on the immigration form that a person at COSTECH signed for me in March says +255222700750 (but I haven’t had to call it so don’t know if it works or anything) and that looks like it might be for Mashahuri Mwinyihamisi who is the main guy who knows what that deal is. I would try him (or if that number isn’t his then ask to speak to him)!
      Adrienne

  3. Hi Aisling,

    Did you try the COSTECH website number? They list a number of ways to connect with their offices including multiple phone numbers and a Twitter handle (@costechTANZANIA). Here’s the posted info for quick reference…

    COSTECH Contact (http://www.costech.or.tz/?page_id=1679):
    Director General,
    Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH)
    P.O. Box 4302, Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road, Kijitonyama (Sayansi ) COSTECH Building,
    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,
    Email: info@costech.or.tz
    Fax: 255 -22- 2927551
    Phone: multiple numbers, please refer to their web page (http://www.costech.or.tz/?page_id=1679)

    • Thanks, David! I was anticipating having to go in person to badger them for a couple days, I just didn’t want to hear that it now takes 3 months or some such nonsense!

  4. I like the post, will forward it to other people,only thing is that the fee for visa is now 500USD… and I would add the telephone numbers–mobiles–for the TAWIRI and COSTECH guys, let me know if you want them, as it really helps to call them for questions or issues. Oh other thing to people applying from abroad, I would recommend you pay the TAWIRI fee before you get to TANZANIA, as it can take weeks for them to do anything.

  5. Actually I’m in the process of waiting for my residency permit right this moment and it is now $550 US it seems. Also, I don’t know how it was in the past, but now, once you submit all the paperwork to immigration, they give you a date two weeks out when you’re supposed to come back to pay and then a week later you can pick it up. I would leave ample time for the immigration part if things though I have had a very good experience with COSTECH recently. They have been very helpful. Hope this helps for anyone working on the process currently. And if anyone is thinking they need to work through NIMR, I would leave something 6 months at least for clearance. It took me 8 last time to finally get approval, mostly because they are horrible at communicating!

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