Kazakhstan changes visa granting mechanism for US citizens

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry reported that US citizens will be able to apply for multiple-entry Kazakhstan's visas valid for up to five years after August 1. Previously Kazakhstan issued visas for US citizens for a period not exceeding one year.

The new rules see an issuance of longer visa of all kinds including diplomatic, official, business, tourist, private and student.

According to a Kazakh- US bilateral agreement, Kazakh citizens traveling to the US will also have the possibility of applying for multiple-entry visas valid for up to five years.

The extension of Kazakh visa terms is one more measure implemented by the government aimed at simplification of the organisation of trips to the country for citizens of the US and other developed countries.

In May, Kazakh Foreign Ministry facilitated visa arrangements for foreign tourists and entrepreneurs.

According to the facilitated procedures, tourists traveling to Kazakhstan can receive single, double or triple entry visas valid for up to 90 days which allow for a stay in the country for up to 30 days after each entry. Immigrants arriving in Kazakhstan for business can get a special visa with a one-year validity period. Foreigners engaged in investment activities in Kazakhstan, will receive single investor visas valid for up to 90 days, or multiple investor visas valid for up to three years following the request from Kazakhstan's authorised body responsible for investments.

"The new rules for issuing visas are primarily aimed at creating favourable conditions for foreign tourists and entrepreneurs travelling to Kazakhstan," the Ministry said.

The new rules make for a more simplified procedure for obtaining Kazakhstan's visas for citizens of 48 developed countries who need no invitation to obtain short-term visas. Moreover, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry earlier said that a draft project is considering the launch of a temporary visa-waiver system for citizens of 48 politically stable and economically developed countries to attract foreign tourists, businessmen and investors. However despite developing this idea for a quite long period the project has not been approved yet and is not scheduled to be approved in the near future.

According to travel agent Aynur Mammadova, cancellation of visa regime in any country always gives rise to a tourist flow.

"Countries with a visa free system are more popular among our clients. You have to spend additional time to receive a visa. Besides, not everyone can plan a vacation in advance. They buy tickets two to five days prior to the trip and the only possible destination in such a case is a visa-waiver country. Moreover when you apply for a visa there is always a risk that you will not receive it," she said.

Kazakhstan has been attaching great importance to inbound tourism of late. A new concept on tourist sector development until 2020 was developed at the beginning of 2013. The concept envisages the creation of new tourist zones and resorts, promotion of Kazakhstan as a tourist destination in other countries and development of tourism education to improve service quality. In 2013 the Kazakh government started financing participation of Kazakh tour operators, offering inbound tourism to foreigners, at international tourism fairs.

At present the Kazakh Economy is based on income from hydrocarbons. However of late, oil production has not increased in the country. Furthermore, according to a BP Statistical Review, oil production in Kazakhstan decreased by 1.6 per cent in 2012.

In April, the Oil and Gas Ministry reduced its oil production forecast for 2013-2015. A similar situation exists in the gas sector. As a result the revenue forecast of Kazakhstan's budget was reduced. In addition currently the Kazakh economy strongly depends on world oil prices. So the country's leadership developed a programme and implemented measures to diversify the country's economy with tourism as one of spheres of the economy being prioritised by the Kazakh government for intensive development.