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Travel Security Advice for Kazakhstan

Kazakhstani__NationalFlag

kazak_mapKazakhstan_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency and a market economy.  Kazakhstan's tourist facilities are not highly developed; the availability of goods and services is better than in most neighboring countries, but not up to the standards found in North America and Western Europe.  Internal travel and travel to neighboring countries, by air and land, can be subject to delays due to infrastructure shortcomings and winter weather.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Kazakhstan  for additional information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Kazakhstan are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page  in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

United States Embassy Astana


Akbulak-4
Street 22-23, Building 3
Astana, Kazakhstan 010010
Telephone: 7-7172-70-21-00
Facsimile: 7-7172-70-22-80
E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

U.S. Embassy Branch Office Almaty
97 Zholdasbekov Street
Samal-2
Almaty, Kazakhstan 050059
Telephone: 7-727-250-49-00
Facsimile: 7-727-250-48-84
E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

 A valid passport and visa are required. The Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington, D.C. and the Consulate of Kazakhstan  in New York issue visas.  The Embassy of Kazakhstan is located at 1401 16th Street NW, Washington, DC  20036, telephone (202) 232-5488 or 550-9617, fax (202) 232-5845 and the Consulate at 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 586 A, New York, NY  10017, telephone (212) 230-1900 or 230-1192, fax (212) 230-1172. An invitation is not required for single-entry business and tourist visas, but multiple-entry visas require an invitation from an individual or organizational sponsor in Kazakhstan.  The U.S. Embassy in Astana and the U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Almaty do not issue letters of invitation to citizens interested in private travel to Kazakhstan.  All travelers, even those simply transiting Kazakhstan, must obtain a Kazakhstani visa before entering the country.  Travelers should be aware that overstaying the validity period of a visa will result in fines and delays upon exit.  Travelers may be asked to provide proof at the border of their subsequent travel arrangements.  Travelers transiting through Kazakhstan are reminded to check that their visas allow for a sufficient number of entries to cover each transit trip and to check the length of validity of the visa.  Crossing the land border to and from the neighboring Kyrgyz Republic can result in delays or demands from border officials to pay fines.

Tourist visas cannot be extended in Kazakhstan.  Business visas can be extended for up to 6 months total validity upon submission of a contract with a sponsoring Kazakhstani organization. Work visas can be extended in Kazakhstan up to the expiration date of the holder’s work permit, a separate document issued only in Kazakhstan.

Transit Visas:

Travelers intending to transit through Russia en route to a third country must have a Russian transit visa. Even travelers who are simply changing planes in Moscow or another international airport in Russia for an onward destination will be asked to present a transit visa issued by a Russian Embassy or Consulate. Russian authorities may refuse to allow a U.S. citizen who does not have a transit visa to continue with his or her travel, obliging the person to immediately return to the point of embarkation at the traveler’s own expense.

Note:  Due to changes in the labor law, foreigners who work in Kazakhstan for registered non-profit organizations and NGOs, other than designated Chief Representatives of those organizations, are no longer exempt from work permit regulations.

Travel to certain areas bordering China and cities in close proximity to military installations require prior permission from the Kazakhstani government.  In 2008, the government declared the following areas closed to foreigners:  the town of Baikonur and surrounding areas in Kyzylorda Oblast, and the town of Gvardeysk near Almaty.  Americans traveling within Kazakhstan have on occasion reported local officials demanding documentation authorizing travel within their area of jurisdiction, even though they received permission from the Department of Migration Police (formerly OVIR), currently part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  Americans should report any trouble with local authorities to the U.S. Embassy in Astana or the U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Almaty.

Registration of American passports is conducted at the same time as the issuance of the visa in one of Kazakhstan’s embassies and consulates abroad or at the time of a border crossing. Americans are not required to register in Kazakhstan upon arrival at a local office of the Department of Migration Police. All registrations are valid for three months, regardless of where they are issued. To extend your registration beyond three months, please contact your local office of the Department of Migration Police. However, if you are not sure if you have been properly registered at the time of visa issuance or border crossing, please contact your local office of the Department of Migration Police.

Visitors to Kazakhstan engaging in missionary work or other religious activities must register with the Department of Justice office in the region (Akimat) where the activities will take place.  This applies even if the religious activities are not the primary purpose of the visit.   Attendance at a religious service does not itself require registration, however participation in the delivery of the service may.  Americans have been fined and deported from Kazakhstan for addressing a congregation, leading prayers, and performing religious music without proper religious worker registration.  In addition, representatives of faith-based non-governmental organizations are often considered subject to the registration requirement even if their activities are not religious in nature. If in doubt whether registration is required, visitors should contact the Department of Justice office responsible for the area of Kazakhstan where they intend to engage in religious activities and request a written decision.  Religious worker registration is only valid for the locality where it is granted and visitors must register in each jurisdiction where they wish to engage in religious activities.    

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points.  These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present.  Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.  All children adopted in Kazakhstan after May 2003 must obtain exit stamps from both the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs before departing the country.

Visit the Embassy of Kazakhstan’s website  for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Although Kazakhstan is comparatively safer than other countries in Central Asia, supporters of extremist groups such as the Islamic Jihad Union, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qaeda, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement remain active across Central Asia.  These groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private interests in the region, including in Kazakhstan.  Attacks against foreign interests in Central Asia have occurred and new tactics, including the use of suicide bombers, have been employed by extremists in neighboring Uzbekistan.  Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets.  Because of increased security at official U.S. facilities, terrorists are also targeting “soft” civilian targets such as residential areas, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, hotels, schools, outdoor recreation events, resorts, beaches, maritime facilities, and aircraft.

Kazakhstani security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance.  Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.  Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada or, by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

CRIME:

Travelers in Kazakhstan should exercise the same precautions concerning personal safety and protection of valuables as they would in any major U.S. city.  Using good judgment and avoiding high-risk areas can reduce the crime threat.  The most common crimes foreign tourists encounter are purse snatching, pick pocketing, assaults, and robberies.  Pick pocketing or robberies occur most frequently in the vicinity of Western hotels, transportation sites, and at open-air markets, including the central open-air market in Almaty (known locally as the "green market").  Americans are advised to exercise caution in the vicinity of hotels, bus or train stations, and when shopping.  The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that Americans do not carry large sums of money on the street.

Identification checks by the police are common practice.  U.S. visitors must produce either a passport or an Embassy-certified copy thereof upon request.  Police are not required to demonstrate probable cause or reasonable suspicion to initiate ID checks.  Given concerns with crime, the U.S. Embassy has an agreement with the Kazakhstani Government to allow Americans to carry a certified copy of their passport and visa rather than the original.  These copies can be obtained from either the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section in Astana or the Branch Office in Almaty during American Citizens Services hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons from, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Be wary of persons representing themselves as police or other local officials.  It is not uncommon for Americans to become victims of harassment and extortion by imposters, genuine law enforcement and other officials.  A genuine police official should always present his own credentials when approaching someone on the street.   If the officer cannot produce identification, he is most likely an imposter.   Never voluntarily hand over your wallet to a police officer.  If pressured, tell the officer that you will report his behavior to the U.S. Embassy and his supervisors.  Authorities are concerned about these incidents and have cooperated in investigating such cases.  Try to obtain the officer's name, badge number, and license plate number, and note where the incident happened because this information assists local officials in identifying the perpetrators.   Report crimes committed against you by persons presenting themselves as police or other governmental authorities to a police station and the U.S. Embassy.

The "lost wallet" scam continues to be common in Kazakhstan.  One version of this swindle involves the discovery of a lost wallet in your presence.  A first person will discover the wallet and offer to divide its contents with you.  Then, a second person will appear, claim to be the owner of the wallet, and demand compensation for the missing money.  A second version involves a person looking for a lost wallet, asking you if have seen it.  The person asks you to reveal the contents of your pockets or bag to prove that you do not have the missing wallet.  The wallet seeker will then surreptitiously steal your exposed valuables.  When initially approached by the “finder” or “seeker” of the lost wallet, simply walk away. 

The embassy highly discourages taking private gypsy cabs in lieu of licensed taxicabs while in Kazakhstan.  This applies especially to travel from the airport to the city upon arrival, where men posing as "meet and greet" airport facilitators have lured foreigners into cars purportedly to take them to their hotels.  However, the driver then takes the passengers to a secluded destination and demands approximately $100 for gas to take the foreigner back to the city.  At the airport, Americans should not leave with anyone who does not show pre-arranged identification, even if the person is holding a sign with the traveler's name.

The Embassy has received reports from American residents and visitors being victims of violent, late-night muggings.  Americans are advised to travel in groups or pairs.  Lone individuals often make easy targets for muggers.  At night, try to remain in well-lit, populated areas.  Visitors are encouraged to leave restaurants or bars if fights break out.

Corruption by public officials, including law enforcement, has been reported frequently, especially at the airport in Almaty.  Some foreigners have been told by customs or border guard officials that they must pay a $50-$500 fine for violating an undisclosed local regulation, despite the fact that the foreign citizen has fully complied with local laws.  Some Americans have reportedly been asked to pay a large fine upon exiting Kazakhstan.  When encountering such irregularities, U.S. citizens are advised to seek clarification from supervisory airport officials or contact the U.S. Embassy before paying.  

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Kazakhstan is 103.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Kazakhstan remains largely a cash economy.  Traveler's checks and credit cards are not widely accepted, except at large hotels and restaurants catering to international visitors.  U.S. dollars can easily be exchanged for the local currency (Tenge) at local and authorized currency exchanges, but all denominations of U.S. currency except $1 bills must be new series (large portraits) and all must have been issued after 2000 and be in good condition (not worn or torn and without any writing or marks).

Kazakhstan, especially in the mountainous southeast region, is an earthquake-prone country.  The U.S. Department of State has ranked the earthquake threat level within Almaty as a Level 4 (the highest level assigned).  Building practices within Kazakhstan do not generally meet U.S. seismic standards.  In addition, local authorities do not have sufficient resources to respond to a large-scale disaster.   American citizens traveling to Kazakhstan are encouraged to register with either the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Embassy’s Branch Office’s Consular Section to facilitate contact in the event of an emergency.  General information about natural disaster preparedness  is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Kazakhstani customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning export from Kazakhstan of items such as antiquities. Foreigners must complete a customs declaration upon entering Kazakhstan and may face fines upon departure if unable to produce certificates verifying legal conversion of foreign currency.

Travelers are strongly encouraged to declare all valuables, including computers, video cameras, and mobile telephones, upon entry in order to avoid paying duty on those items upon departure.  Tenge, Kazakhstan's currency, can be exported by residents of Kazakhstan (including foreigners) in amounts up to $3,000 without declaration and without written certification of the origin of funds.  Residents exporting between $3,000 and $10,000 must complete a customs declaration and prove the origin of the funds (e.g. proof of locally-paid salary).  Travelers visiting Kazakhstan for short periods of time may not leave the country with more currency than they declared when entering Kazakhstan.  For legal requirements on the export of Tenge, travelers should consult with local Customs officials.  In practice, however, travelers should be wary of such officials at the airport, as visitors have been erroneously charged duty on Tenge exports or asked to surrender Tenge in the past.  It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Washington, D.C. for specific information at 140116th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, telephone (202) 232-5488. 

Please see our Customs Information.

Foreigners are required to carry a valid passport while in Kazakhstan.  American citizens are strongly urged to have a certified copy of their U.S. passport made at the either the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section in Astana or the Branch Office in Almaty.  Having a certified copy in their possession satisfies the local requirement to carry a passport and reduces the chances of a passport being lost or stolen.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical care in Kazakhstan is limited and well below North American and Western European standards.  The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of English-speaking physicians.  Basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics can be in short supply.  Elderly travelers and those with pre-existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities.  Most resident Americans travel to Western Europe for serious medical treatment.  Such travel can be extremely expensive if undertaken under emergency conditions.  Travelers requiring prescription medications or specific brand-name medicines should bring sufficient supplies of medications and not rely on local availability.

The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Kazakhstan.  For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.

Some HIV/AIDS restrictions exist for foreign residents of Kazakhstan.  Visitors applying for a work or residency permit, required for Americans who wish to spend more than 6 months in Kazakhstan, must submit negative HIV test results with their application to the Migration Police in the city where they intend to work or reside.  The results must be less than three months old.  The city HIV clinic in the place of registration can conduct the test or may certify test results performed abroad. If the original test results are in a language other than Russian or Kazakh, they must be accompanied by an official translation. If a foreigner tests positive for HIV in Kazakhstan, he or she must depart the country.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Kazakhstan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Roads in Kazakhstan are in poor repair, especially in rural areas.  Poor signage is common. Street lighting, especially on side streets, may be turned off at night.  Drivers often ignore lane markings.  Potholes are common, and are often dangerously deep.  Pedestrians frequently dart out in front of cars.  Visitors should drive defensively at all times as many local drivers do not follow traffic laws.  Special caution should be taken if driving at night.  Road rage can be a problem, especially in and around Almaty, and a non-confrontational response to such behavior is strongly recommended.  Accidents involving severe injury and/or death are common.  Traffic police have reportedly stopped cars to extort bribes on main city streets and at periodic checkpoints on major highways.

The road between Almaty and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is especially treacherous at night or during poor weather.  Americans and other travelers have been killed in traffic accidents on that road, and travel at night should be avoided.

Travelers should be particularly careful when using public transportation and taxis.  Buses tend to be very crowded and can be unsafe and unreliable.   Due to the danger of theft or assault, travelers should be selective regarding which taxi they contract and always avoid entering a cab that already contains persons other than the driver.

Americans wishing to drive in Kazakhstan should possess a valid international driver's license.  For specific information, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan  at 1401 16th Street NW, Washington, DC  20036, telephone (202) 232-5488.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. 

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Kazakhstan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Kazakhstan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Kazakhstan dated March 16, 2009 to update the sections on Crime, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Kazakhstan HERE.....

 Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)...............

Regards

The SW Team.....

 

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