Passport Control
Passport Control

I once had a very challenging visa problem getting into Kazakhstan so it is nice to know that, at least for the remainder of 2017, vast numbers of people from many nations can visit the country for business or pleasure for up to 30 days without any visa.

Kazakhstan has pretty much thrown open its doors for the time being, allowing lots of people from abroad to come for business or pleasure without any visa at all.  The country is promoting tourism in general but the government particularly wants tourists to attend Expo-2017.

Expo-2017?  That’s right.  Expositions are held with a certain frequency.  In fact, there is an intergovernmental organization in charge of overseeing and regulating world expositions.  It’s called Bureau International des Expositions.

Kazakhstan bid for and was awarded the project for 2017 and it is being held in Astana this summer, ending on 10 September 2017.  A lot of money has been spent by the national government, the city of Astana and more than 100 countries which operate their individual pavilions, all under the theme of “Future Energy”.

For the time being, therefore, the usual visa requirements for visitors for business or pleasure have been dropped for citizens of many countries.

Here is the official announcement:

Announcement on the extension of visa free travel to Kazakhstan from 1 January to 31 December 2017.

Citizens of following countries may enter Kazakhstan without applying for visas if the period of stay in the Republic of Kazakhstan does not exceed 30 calendar days from the moment of crossing the State border of the Republic of Kazakhstan:

1. Australia 16. Hungary 31. Norway
2. Austria 17. Iceland 32. Poland
3. Belgium 18. Ireland 33. Portugal
4. Bulgaria 19. Israel 34. Republic of Korea
5. Canada 20. Italy 35. Romania
6. Chile 21. Japan 36. Singapore
7. Croatia 22. Latvia 37. Slovakia
8. Cyprus 23. Lithuania 38. Slovenia
9. Czech Republic 24. Luxembourg 39. Spain
10. Denmark 25. Malaysia 40. Sweden
11. Estonia 26. Malta 41. Switzerland
12. Finland 27. Mexico 42. Turkey
13. France 28. Monaco 43. United Arab Emirates
14. Germany 29. Netherlands 44. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
15. Greece 30. New Zealand 45. United States of America

So much for the current situation.   Now let me tell you about the time I entered the country without a visa when visas were rigorously required.

In the 1990s, I travelled frequently between England and Kazakhstan.  I set up my firm’s law office in Almaty in 1993 but continued to be in charge of our office in London.  Both were small offices and didn’t need a lot of administrative oversight – well, maybe the Almaty office did due to local regulatory requirements – but I had clients and their work in both offices.  It often happened that I would arrive at the London office and immediately work on Kazakhstan legal matters.  Equally, I would be in Almaty only to find that I had to pay attention to some matter for a client of our London office.

Our offices were too small to have a staff member dedicated to making sure we had required visas, and the computer industry had not yet invented a reminder system for appointments, expiring visas and the like.  Making sure you had a valid visa was a personal responsibility.

Well, one time I arrived in Almaty on one of those red-eye flights and was stopped at passport control for lack of a visa.  What?  I was disbelieving and joined in the search of my passport pages seeking the one with the valid sticker.   Gulp.  There I was, very early in the morning, with the office driver waiting outside for me, and the passport man had just told me that I was out of luck.  My visas back in those days were for very extended periods, like a year, and I had failed to keep track of the expiry date.

Worse yet, I was aware that two partners from Arthur Andersen & Co. – remember that accounting firm – had very recently suffered the ignominy, embarrassment, frustration of being refused entry for lack of visas, of being held at the airport after a long and tiring flight, and of being placed on the next airplane back to London!

Gasp!  What could I do?  I had no indication that the stern-faced passport control guy would be at all sympathetic but I nevertheless managed to enter without a visa!  I invoked the name of Mobil Oil Company as my inviting company and, to add credibility, I tossed out the name of David Goodner, a top Mobil official who I felt certain would offer some support for my story if the official phoned him for confirmation at that ungodly hour.  Of course there was no invitation and David knew nothing about my arrival. Mobil Oil was well known as a major investor in the key oil industry; if any company could work magic for me, they were it.  My ploy worked.  The official didn’t call for confirmation,  I was allowed in the country and given three days to obtain a visa.  Which I did.

Visa free sounds good to me.


Book Sales:  Find stories about Kazakhstan from the 1990s and later in my book, West Meets East in Kazakhstan.  It’s available online in softcover or e-book format from AuthorHouse (the publisher), or Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Website:  My blog posts go out on Facebook and often on LinkedIn.  If you’d like to see them again or check for posts you might have missed, go directly to my website: viewkazakhstan.com


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