Kazakhstan - Consular Information Sheet
October 17, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Kazakhstan is a newly independent
nation in the midst of profound economic and political change.
The capital is Astana. The U.S. Embassy is still located in Almaty,
the largest city and former capital. Tourist facilities are not
highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for
granted in other countries are not yet available. Internal travel
and travel to other New Independent States (NIS), including both
air and land routes, can be subject to disruptions and lengthy
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport and visa are required.
Visas are issued by the Kazakhstani Embassy (on the basis of an
invitation from an individual or organization -- the sponsor in
Kazakhstan) or, by bilateral agreement, by the Russian Embassy
in countries in which there is no Kazakhstani Embassy. Visitors
should be aware, however, that there have been cases reported
in which Russian embassies have refused to issue visas to Kazakhstan
or applicants have experienced lengthy delays. The U.S. Embassy
in Almaty does not issue letters of invitation to citizens interested
in private travel to Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has suspended the
72-hour transit rule, which allowed travelers with other Commowealth
of Independent States' visas to transit Kazakhstan. All travelers,
even those simply transiting Kazakhstan for less than 72 hours,
must obtain a Kazakhstani visa prior to entering the country.
Furthermore, travelers may be asked to provide proof at the border
of their onward travel arrangements. Travelers transiting through
Kazakhstan are reminded to check that their visas allow sufficient
number of entries to cover each transit trip and check the length
of validity of the visa. For complete information concerning entry
requirements, U.S. citizens should contact the Embassy of Kazakhstan
at 1401 16th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone (202)
LOCAL REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS: All travelers staying
for more than three business days must register with the Office
of Visas and Registration (OVIR). Visitors who do not register
may have to pay large fines at the airport upon departure. All
visitors must also present to the OVIR office within 10 days of
arrival a certificate indicating a negative HIV test conducted
no more than one month prior to registration. Evidence of an HIV
test performed abroad is acceptable. Testing may also be done
at the Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS (7 Talgarskaya
INTERNAL TRAVEL: Several border areas with China and cities
in close proximity to military installations require prior permission
from the government to enter. Also, Americans traveling within
Kazakhstan have on occasion reported trouble with local officials
who demand documentation authorizing travel within their province,
despite appropriate registration in Almaty or Astana. Americans
should report any trouble with provincial authorities to the U.S.
Embassy in Almaty.
CRIME INFORMATION: The rate of crime, particularly violent
street crime, is serious and widespread. Pickpocketing is frequent.
Robberies have occurred on public transport, in parks and shopping
areas, around hotels and restaurants catering to foreigners, and
in private apartments. It is best not to walk alone at night;
carrying a flashlight after dark is recommended. The loss or theft
of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police
and to the U.S. Embassy.
A new scam was uncovered at the Almaty International Airport
in January 2000. Men posing as
"meet and greet" airport facilitators for international
arrivals lure unsuspecting foreigners into cars purportedly to
take them to their hotel. However, the driver of the car proceeds
to drive to a secluded gas station in the country. He then demands
approximately $100 for gas to take the foreigner back to the city.
All Americans planning travel to Kazakhstan 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 the pre-arranged identification, even if the
person is holding a sign with the traveler's name.
The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that Americans do not carry
large sums of money on the street. There have also been cases
of men wearing official police uniforms approaching foreigners
on the street, asking to see their passports and then robbing
them of whatever cash they may have. These crimes seem to be most
common in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city. They occur most frequently
at the open-air market (known locally as the "green market"),
near the central department store, and around the Otrar and Dostyk
hotels. All Americans are advised to exercise caution in the vicinity
of these hotels and when shopping. Kazakhstani police officials
advise that a legitimate police officer should not be randomly
checking pedestrians for identification. A genuine police official
should always present his own credentials when approaching someone
on the street. If he does not, you should ask to see his credentials.
If the officer cannot produce authentic identification, he is
most likely not a real policeman.
Given these circumstances, if you are not threatened with a weapon
or force and find yourself confronted by a policeman, confidently
and assertively ask the for the officer's identification. Note
any identification number or any license plate number if there
is a car. Tell the officer that you will report his behavior to
the U.S. Embassy and his supervisors. Never voluntarily hand over
your passport or wallet to a policeman. Be sure to inform the
Embassy promptly of any such encounters with the police.
Given the crime situation, the U.S. Embassy has made arrangements
with the Kazakhstani Government to allow Americans to carry a
certified copy of their passport and visa rather than the original.
Additional information on the region can be found in the brochure,
Tips for Travelers
to Russia, available from the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,
D.C. 20402 via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs.
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. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's
A Safe Trip Abroad, for
ways to assure a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available
by mail from the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,
D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care in Kazakhstan is below
Western standards, with severe shortages of basic medical supplies,
including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics. Most
resident Americans travel to the West for serious medical needs.
Such travel can be extremely expensive if undertaken under emergency
conditions. Travelers requiring prescription medications or brand-name
medicines should bring sufficient supplies of medications and
not rely on local availability.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether
your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical
evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems
requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United
States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain
whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor
or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you
incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric
treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or by autofax: (202)
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international
1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299),
or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
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
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Roads are in poor repair, even in Almaty, but most are passable.
Street lighting, where available, is often turned off at night.
Lane markings are scarce and potholes common and often dangerously
deep. Pedestrians frequently dart out in front of cars. Visitors
should use special caution if driving at night. Defensive driving
is a must because many local drivers do not follow traffic laws.
Americans wishing to drive in Kazakhstan should possess a valid
American driver's license and an international driver's license.
For additional information about
road safety, please see the Department of State, Bureau of
Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority
to operate such service between the U.S. and Kazakhstan, the
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Kazakhstan's
Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at
1-800-322-7873, or visit the
FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign
air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the DOD at tel. 1-618-229-4801.
Travelers may experience prolonged delays, unexpected re-routing
and sudden cancellations of flights, including Air Kazakhstan,
which is the Kazakhstani national airline company.
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. Persons violating
Kazakhstani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested
or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in
illegal drugs in Kazakhstan are strict, and convicted offenders
can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Kazakhstan is largely a cash economy.
Traveler's checks and credit cards are rarely accepted, except
at large hotels that cater to Western 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. dollar
bills must have been issued after 1990 and be in good condition
(not worn or torn and without any writing or marks).
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Kazakhstan 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 fully to a large-scale disaster.
American citizens traveling to Kazakhstan are encouraged to register
with the U.S. Embassy Consular Section to assist in contacting
them 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/.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: In December 1998, the Kazakhstani Government
revised its family code to address international adoption. While
the law now affirms the right of foreigners to adopt Kazakhstani
children, implementation of this law is still being worked out.
Until the regulations are finalized, adoption procedures will
vary widely from region to region, and Americans should expect
lengthy bureaucratic delays during the adoption process. At a
minimum, Kazakhstani law requires foreigners to be in country
for two weeks. However, Americans have been delayed as long as
three months. Further, due to the rapidly increasing numbers of
Americans adopting in Kazakhstan, all adopting families must schedule
an appointment in advance for completion of their orphan investigation
with the Consular Section in Almaty. Prospective parents are encouraged
to obtain information on U.S. requirements for in-country processing
of U.S. orphan investigations (I-604) and not to rely wholly on
local facilitators to arrange for necessary documentation.
The adoption process in Kazakhstan is unpredictable and subject
to suspension at any time. For
current information on adoptions in Kazakstan, general information
on international adoption of children and international parental
child abduction, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Almaty
or refer to the
State Department Office of Children's Issues Internet site at
http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202)
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or
visiting Kazakhstan are encouraged to register at the Consular
Section of the U.S. Embassy in Almaty and obtain updated information
on travel and security in Kazakhstan. Registration allows for
quicker replacement of a lost or stolen passport, as well as contact
in the case of an emergency. The
U.S. Embassy in Almaty is located at 99/97A Furmanova Street,
tel. 7-3272-63-39-21, after hours 7-3272-50-76-27, fax: 7-3272-50-62-69,