Consular Information Sheet
August 02, 2007
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.
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 N.W., Washington, D.C.
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, N.Y. 10017,
telephone (212) 230-1900 or 230-1192, fax (212) 230-1172. As of February 2004,
an invitation is no longer 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 for less than 72 hours, 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.
Travel to certain areas bordering China and cities in
close proximity to military installations requires prior permission from the
Kazakhstani government. In 2001, the government declared the following
areas closed to foreigners: Gvardeyskiy village, Rossavel village, and
Kulzhabashy railway station in Zhambyl Oblast; Bokeyorda and Zhangaly districts
in Western Kazakhstan Oblast; the town of Priozersk and Gulshad village in
Karaganda Oblast; and Baykonur, Karmakshy, and Kazakly districts in Kyzylorda
Oblast. 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 passportsis conducted
at the same time as the issuance of the visa in one of Kazakhstanâ€™s embassies
and consulates abroad or at the time of a border crossing. Americansare
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.
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
Visit the Embassy of Kazakhstanâ€™s web site at
http://www.kazakhembus.com for the
most current visa information.
See our information about dual nationality, the
prevention of international child abduction and Customs Information.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
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 in 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 â€œsoftâ€ 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, Americans
traveling abroad should regularly monitor at http://travel.state.gov where the
current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement,
can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can
also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or
for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at
1-202-501-4444. 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
Stateâ€™s pamphlet A Safe Trip
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
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 made arrangements with the
Kazakhstani Government to allow Americans in the Almaty Oblast to carry a
certified copy of their passport and visa rather than the original. These
copies can be obtained from either the U.S. Embassyâ€™s Consular Section in Astana
or the Branch Office in Almaty during business hours Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m.
to 5:00 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. A second person will then 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, wallet, 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 â€œfinderâ€ or â€œseekerâ€ of the
lost wallet, simply walk away. Never hand over your wallet or belongings
to someone who approaches you on the street. The perpetrators will
eventually go looking for another target.
Another swindle has occurred at the Almaty
International Airport. Men posing as "meet and greet" airport facilitators
lure foreigners into cars purportedly to take them to their hotels.
However, the driver takes the passengers to a secluded destination and then
demands approximately $100 for gas to take the foreigner back to the city.
All travelers should make prior arrangements with their contacts in Almaty for
concrete identification upon arrival 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: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be
reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or
Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to
reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate
for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you
to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain
how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution
of the crime is 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.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
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.
Information on vaccinations and other health
precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection,
may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionâ€™s hotline
for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDCâ€™s
internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases
abroad consult the World Health Organizationâ€™s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en/. Further
health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en/.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The
Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical
insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy
applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical
evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas .
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
Roads in Kazakhstan are in poor repair, especially in
rural areas. 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
particularly 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 undertaken with great caution or 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. Visit the website of Kazakhstanâ€™s national tourist office and
national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.kazakhembus.com.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As
there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and
Kazakhstan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed
Kazakhstanâ€™s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more
information, travelers may visit the FAAâ€™s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa .
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. Embassyâ€™s Branch Officeâ€™s Consular Section to
facilitate contact in the event of an emergency. General information about
natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.
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. Embassyâ€™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.
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. Persons violating Kazakhstanâ€™s laws, even
unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for
possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kazakhstan are severe, and
convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child
pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United
States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For
information, see our Office of Childrenâ€™s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and
international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY
LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Kazakhstan are
encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the
State Departmentâ€™s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and
security within Kazakhstan. By registering, American citizens
make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of
emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Astana and the U.S. Embassy Branch Office
in Almaty are 11 hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time. The U.S.
Embassy in Astana is located at Akbulak-4, St. 22-23, Building 3, 010010,
Astana, tel. 7-3172-70-21-00, fax 7-3172-70-22-80, e-mail USAKZ@state.gov, or web site http://www.usembassy.kz. The U.S.
Embassy Branch Office in Almaty is located at 97 Zholdasbekov St., Samal-2,
Almaty 050059, tel. 7-327-250-48-02, 250-49-00, 250-49-01, fax 7-327-250-48-84,
e-mail USAKZ@state.gov, or web site http://www.usembassy.kz.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated
February 02, 2007, to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime,
Special Circumstances, and Registration/Embassy Location.
http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html for State Department Travel
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Consular Information Sheet