Visiting the Caspian region could become easier as early as this year’s end, as Kazakhstani officials are working to launch a pilot project that will issue electronic visas at airports within the country.
Arystanbek Mukhamediuly, the Minister of Culture and Sports, announced on Monday that citizens residing in 128 countries, including India, China, Iran and other Persian Gulf countries, will be able to enter Kazakhstan without having to apply for a visa before arrival. The visa issuance service will be piloted at the airports of Astana and Almaty. Currently, citizens of 64 countries are all eligible to enter Kazakhstan without a visa for a maximum stay of 30 days.
“This will greatly facilitate the process of getting a visa and will shorten the period [of issuance] to five days,” said Mukhamediuly, according to Kazinform.
The project is being launched as part of the state-run initiative known as “Digital Kazakhstan,” a $446 million plan to use digital technologies to accelerate financial development. The issuance of e-visas for the purposes of tourism, business and medical treatment is possible after foreign nationals use an electronic portal to enter personal and travel-related data.
Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee is responsible for verifying the identities of applicants.
“We check the information on databases, and if there are no restrictions, we issue a visa, thus simplifying the registration procedure, especially for citizens of countries where we do not have consular services,” said Yerlan Turgumbayev, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, according to reports by Zakon. “Also, we do not need to expand the consular staff.”
As Central Asia’s largest country, Kazakhstan is implementing what officials describe as a long-term development program to develop tourism infrastructure and attract foreign nationals from around the globe.
In April, the government in Astana launched an initiative to issue transit visas for Indians and Chinese within 72 hours. Citizens are registered by Kazakhstan’s border service at checkpoints across the state border. Since the program’s inception, the flow of Chinese through Kazakhstan increased by 60 percent, with more than 17,000 foreigners having entered the capital.
Kazakhstan received a record influx of tourists in 2017 according to country’s statistics agency, which recorded more than 3.6 million tourists entering the country throughout the year. This reflects an increase of more than 20 percent compared to the previous year.
Kazakhstan will not be the first Caspian region country to have an electronic application and issuance service for visas. Earlier this year, Azerbaijan unrolled its digital platform known as ASAN (meaning “easy” in Azerbaijani) that issues electronic visas to foreign nationals and stateless persons at the country’s international airports.