KazakhstanOfficial Name: Republic of Kazakhstan
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
None for visits of up to 15 days. Those staying longer than 15 days or engaging in employment or missionary activities require a visa.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
Ak Bulak 4, Str. 23-22,
Telephone: +(7) (7172) 702-100
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: (8-717) 270-2200 or +(7) (7172) 702-200 (from the U.S.)
Fax: +(7) (7172) 702-280
U.S. Consulate General Almaty
97 Zholdasbekov Street
Almaty, Kazakhstan 050059
Telephone: +(7) (7272) 504-901
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: (8-7172 ) 702-200 or +(7) (7172) 702-200 from the U.S.)
Fax: +(7) (7272) 504-884
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 many neighboring countries, but generally are not up to the standards found in North America and Western Europe. Internal travel and travel to neighboring countries, whether by air or land, can be subject to delays due to infrastructure shortcomings and winter weather. Read the Department of State's Fact Sheet on Kazakhstan for additional information on U.S.- Kazakhstan relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
A valid passport is required for all travelers, even if you are just transiting Kazakhstan. 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 535 Fifth Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 230-1900 or 230-1192, fax (646) 370-6334.
On July 15, 2014, Kazakhstan implemented a one-year pilot program that allows all short-term U.S. citizen travelers to visit Kazakhstan without a visa for up to fifteen days for all purposes of travel excluding employment and missionary work. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there is no limit to the number of times U.S. citizen short-term travelers can visit Kazakhstan during the pilot-program’s duration. During this period, business travelers may extend their stays for one month and investors may extend their stays for up to three years respectively without leaving Kazakhstan under certain circumstances. U.S. citizens wishing to visit Kazakhstan for longer than fifteen days will be required to obtain a visa. U.S. citizens should contact the nearest Kazakhstani diplomatic mission for additional information about the visa-free pilot program.
The pilot program follows two important changes to Kazakhstan’s visa regime in 2013. On June 1, 2013, Kazakhstan introduced a new visa classification regime that divides Kazakhstani visa categories into the following categories: diplomatic, service, investment, business, religious activities/ missionary, tourism, private travel, transit, family reunification, student, employment, humanitarian activities, and exit visas. On August 1, 2013, the United States and Kazakhstan began issuing five-year multiple-entry visas on a reciprocal basis to qualified applicants traveling for business, tourism, or for diplomatic, official, and media purposes. U.S. citizens applying for business, tourist, and private visas are no longer required to obtain letters of invitation. U.S. citizens on tourist visas may stay in Kazakhstan for up to 30 days per visit, while the maximum period of stay on a private visa is 90 days per year (regardless of the number of visits).
Travelers should be aware that violating the authorized period of stay in Kazakhstan or engaging in activities inconsistent with their visa category may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or 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. Most visa categories cannot be extended in Kazakhstan. Exceptions to this rule are business and investor visas, student visas, visas for medical treatment, visas for permanent residents of Kazakhstan, and work visas, which can be extended in Kazakhstan up to the expiration date of the holder's work permit, a separate document issued only in Kazakhstan. More information can be found at the Embassy of Kazakhstan's website.
Visitors to Kazakhstan engaging in missionary work or other religious activities must register with the Ministry 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, but participation in the delivery of the service does.
U.S. citizens 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 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 Ministry 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.
U.S. citizens who wish to apply for a Permanent Residency Permit in Kazakhstan are required to provide the Kazakhstani Migration Police with a U.S. background check performed by law enforcement in the United States. This background check must be authenticated (i.e., affixed with an apostille) by the state authorities in which the investigation was conducted. For more information on official authentication, please see the Department of State website. It is recommended that you obtain the background check before your travel to Kazakhstan, as it may be difficult to have fingerprints taken in Kazakhstan and U.S. Mission Kazakhstan does not fingerprint U.S. citizens to assist them in obtaining permanent residency. For more information about U.S. background checks, please refer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website.
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 Baykonur and surrounding areas in Kyzylorda Oblast, and the town of Gvardeysk near Almaty. U.S. citizens 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 Migration Police. U.S. citizens should report any trouble with local authorities to the U.S. Embassy in Astana or the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty.
Registration of U.S. 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. Foreigners traveling to Kazakhstan are required to provide a white immigration registration card to border officials upon arrival to Kazakhstan. These cards can be obtained either onboard aircraft flying to Kazakhstan or at border crossings. Travelers must retain this card throughout their stay in Kazakhstan. Two stamps on the card indicate that the traveler is registered. If the card contains only one stamp, the traveler must register with the Migration Police within five calendar days. Certain hotels throughout Kazakhstan are also able to register foreign guests.
While Kazakhstani authorities may register a traveler for up to three-months, this does not necessarily mean that the traveler can be physically present in Kazakhstan for three months. The duration of stay is dictated by the specific visa category.Those traveling on the visa-waiver pilot program are required to leave Kazakhstan no later than fifteen days after arrival. To extend your registration beyond three months, or if you are not sure if you have been properly registered at the time of visa issuance or border crossing, please contact the nearest Migration Police office in Kazakhstan. Foreigners must inform the Migration Police of changes of address. Foreigners who violate registration rules may be tried before an immigration judge. Penalties for violating registration rules, which include failing to produce a white registration card with proof of registration on departure, include delayed and/or denial of boarding, fines, imprisonment for up to ten days, and deportation.
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 a 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 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before departing the country.
Visit the Embassy of Kazakhstan's website for the most current visa information.
The U.S. Embassy in Astana and the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty do not provide apostille services for any documents. All U.S. citizens who wish to use their vital record documents (marriage certificates, birth certificates or divorce certificates), education documents (diplomas and certificates of completion) or U.S. police records in Kazakhstan are strongly advised to authenticate (i.e., obtain an apostille for) their documents in the state where the original document was issued. The majority of local authorities in Kazakhstan, including public notaries, do not recognize foreign documents without an apostille stamp.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Kazakhstan. Visitors applying for a work or residency permit, required for U.S. citizens who wish to spend more than six 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, notarized translation. If a foreigner wishes to register as a permanent resident in Kazakhstan, he or she must present negative HIV test results. Positive test results will result in the refusal of a permanent residency application. Please verify this information with the Embassy of Kazakhstan before you travel.
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
Supporters of extremist groups such as the Islamic Jihad Union, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qaida, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. government or private interests in the region, including in Kazakhstan. Because of increased security at official U.S. facilities, terrorists may also target "soft" civilian targets such as commercial or residential areas, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, hotels, schools, outdoor recreation events, resorts, beaches, maritime facilities, and aircraft.
Following several attacks against local authorities in Western Kazakhstan in 2012, the U.S. Mission in Kazakhstan encourages U.S. citizens resident in, or traveling to, Western Kazakhstan to remain vigilant. Although previous violent activity has primarily been directed towards Kazakhstani governmental entities, it is possible that this focus could shift to other targets. In addition, law enforcement agencies have conducted anti-terrorist operations against claimed extremists in populated areas throughout the country.
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.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan on Twitter and visiting the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking for useful tips for 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, pickpocketing, assaults, and robberies. Pickpocketing 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"). U.S. citizens are advised to exercise particular caution in the vicinity of hotels, bus or train stations, and when shopping. U.S. Mission Kazakhstan strongly recommends that U.S. citizens do not carry large sums of money on the street.
The Kazakhstani police sometimes conduct identification checks on streets and in other public areas. 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. U.S. citizens may obtain a certified copy of their passport and visa from the U.S. Embassy in Astana or U.S. Consulate General in Almaty during American Citizens Services hours. Please check the U.S. Mission Kazakhstan website for the American Citizens Services hours in Almaty and Astana.
Travelers should be wary of persons representing themselves as police or other local officials. It is not uncommon for U.S. citizens 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 give your wallet to anybody. If pressured by a police officer, tell the officer that you will report his behavior to the U.S. Embassy in Astana or Consulate General in Almaty and the officer’s 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. Report crimes committed against you by persons presenting themselves as police or other government authorities to a police station and the U.S. Embassy in Astana or Consulate General in Almaty.
U.S. Mission Kazakhstan highly discourages taking unlicensed cabs in lieu of licensed taxicabs while in Kazakhstan. This applies especially to travel from the airport and train station 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. In some cases, the driver has then taken the passengers to a secluded destination and demanded approximately $100 for gas to take the foreigners back to the city or physically assaulted them. At the airport, U.S. citizens 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.
Crime seems more prevalent in the cities than in the countryside. Due to a sharp increase in street crime over the past several years, U.S. citizens are advised to travel in groups or pairs, as 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 and be aware of their surroundings at all times. The U.S. Mission in Kazakhstan is aware of isolated incidents when foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been drugged, robbed, and physically assaulted at popular bars and nightclubs in Almaty and Astana.
While street crime shows a marked increase over recent years, street criminals show a clear preference to threaten but not use force when they rob a victim, and criminals rarely initiate the encounter with force or violence. U.S. citizens who are victims of street crimes are advised in such a situation to comply with all demands in order to avoid violence and to report the incident to the local authorities and the U.S. Mission in Kazakhstan.
As in most countries, organized crime exists, but has had little to no impact on the average traveler. There is no indication that any specific group has been targeted for victimization, nor is there any evidence of racially-motivated or anti-American hate crimes.
Corruption by public officials, including law enforcement, has been reported frequently, especially at the airport in Almaty. Some foreigners have been told in the past 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 U.S. citizens 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 in Astana or Consulate General in Almaty before paying.
Don't buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
Police response times have shown steady improvement over the past several years as the police modernize and professionalize their force. Although there is no “911” emergency dispatcher equivalent in Kazahstan, U.S. citizens in need of emergency services may contact the Rescue Service by telephone by dialing “112.” The Rescue Service operator will determine the nature of your emergency and what service to contact, but is likely to ask the caller to then call that service provider directly. Here are the specific direct numbers to the various emergency service providers:
Call 101 for Fire
Call 102 for Police
Call 103 for Emergency Medical Assistance
Call 104 in the event of a gas leak
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Kazakhstan, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. Persons violating Kazakhstan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kazakhstan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. In Kazakhstan, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you or if you take pictures of certain buildings. In Kazakhstan, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail due to Kazakhstan’s “zero tolerance” for drinking and driving. If you break local laws in Kazakhstan, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and if you purchase them in a foreign country, you may be breaking local law as well.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in that country, others may not. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Most prominent retailers, hotels, vendors, and restaurants in Almaty, Astana, and other major cities accept debit and credit cards. Outside of metropolitan areas and in local markets, however, Kazakhstan remains largely a cash economy. U.S. dollars can easily be exchanged for the local currency (tenge) at 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). In most cities, ATMs are plentiful and can generally be found in shopping malls or near local banks. Travelers are advised to use due caution when withdrawing money in public areas or on the street.
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. U.S. citizens traveling to Kazakhstan are encouraged to enroll in STEP 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 antiques. 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 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 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, DC, for specific information at 1401 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, telephone (202) 232-5488.
Please see our Customs Information page for more information.
Foreigners are required to carry a valid passport while in Kazakhstan. U.S. citizens are strongly urged to have a certified copy of their U.S. passport made at either of the U.S. Embassy's Consular Sections at the Embassy in Astana or the Consulate General in Almaty. Having a certified copy in possession satisfies the local requirement to carry a passport and reduces the chances of a passport being lost or stolen.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) events in Kazakhstan. Negative social attitudes towards LGBT persons exist, and local LGBT persons are sometimes subject to physical and verbal abuse, as well as unwanted attention from police. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Kazakhstan, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. For further information on LGBT travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Kazakhstan, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from in the United States. Although Kazakhstani law mandates access to buildings and transportation for persons with disabilities, implementation and enforcement of this law has not yet resulted in widespread accommodations for persons with disabilities. As such, many buildings, public walkways, and public transportation remain inaccessible to persons with disabilities.
Medical care in Kazakhstan is limited and well below North American and West European standards. U.S. Mission Kazakhstan maintains a list of English-speaking physicians available at both the U.S. Embassy in Astana and the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty. Elderly travelers and those with pre-existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Generally, the medical care in Kazakhstan is only adequate to stabilize trauma prior to air evacuation and should not be relied upon for treatment. Most U.S. citizens resident in Kazakhstan travel to Western Europe, the United States, or other major urban centers offering Western medical care for treatment of serious medical conditions. Such travel can be extremely expensive if undertaken under emergency conditions. Medical evacuation insurance is recommended for all travelers to Kazakhstan. Travelers requiring prescription medications or specific brand-name medicines should bring sufficient supplies of medications and not rely on local availability.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Kazakhstan, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
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 in rural areas where farm animals may wander onto roadways. Road rage can be a problem, 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. U.S. citizens and other travelers have been killed in traffic accidents on that road, and travel at night or during poor weather 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.
Kazakhstan has a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of alcohol. A driver may be detained by police and convicted of drunk driving for driving a vehicle after consuming one drink of alcohol, regardless of whether the driver is actually intoxicated.
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.
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO, a specialized agency of the United Nations) inspectors, however, have identified serious and persistent lapses in the safety oversight of commercial air service on Kazakhstan-registered airlines. As a result U.S. government personnel are not permitted to travel on any Kazakhstani airline operating regularly scheduled flights except for Air Astana. This policy only applies to the official travel of U.S. government personnel and will be reevaluated as reforms are undertaken and future technical reviews, such as audits by ICAO, determine that Kazakhstan’s civil aviation operations more substantially comply with acceptable international safety standards.