Unfortunately not everyone can visit Kazakhstan without a visa, myself included. Citizens of USA, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, UAE, Russia, Turkey, and most western European countries wouldn’t need a visa to enter Kazakhstan. However, they have to pay attention to the number of days allowed to stay in the country, which can be anywhere between 14 and 90 days.
By 2017, Kazakhstan plans to expand its visa-free regime to all OECD member countries. These countries include some eastern european EU member states as well as Mexico, Chile, Canada, Iceland, and New Zealand.
A list of all visa-exempt countries as well as some other important details can be found here. Otherwise, citizens of any other countries in the world would need not only a visa, but also a so-called ‘Letter of Invitation’ (LOI). A Letter of Invitation is something like an ‘approval’ from the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Those needing a visa to travel to Kazakhstan can NOT obtain the visa without submitting a Letter of Invitation at the embassy/consulate.
Sounds like a bit complicated process right? Unfortunately it is a bit lengthy and expensive process; costs time and bit of money. But if you are really determined to visit a new country like me, you can get over all the bureaucracy quite easily. All you need to do is a have a cool head and get through everything step by step. And this is exactly what I will mention on this post.
How do you get a LOI and Visa for Kazakhstan?
Before going to a Kazakh embassy or consulate to submit your visa application, you need to first get a Letter of Invitation. This is an important part of the documents you need to submit when applying for a Kazakh tourist visa. When you google the subject of LOI for Kazakhstan, there are many results. You will find a lot of websites/companies offering such service. But of course not all of them are legit or helpful, can be even expensive af. But after some research, I finally found the perfect option and I highly recommend it!
‘Almaty City Tour‘ – a tour operator based in Almaty is your best bet for obtaining a LOI. Regardless of whether you want to visit Astana or Almaty, they will do their best to help you with this issue. But before I mention the steps to your Letter of Invitation, let me point out first what you will need.
– Internet Connection and your email address (obviously)
– Passport and Residence Permit (if your ‘home’ is somewhere else than your native land)
– Credit Card and/or Bank account
– Flight booking for your trip
– Access to a printer and scanner
– At least € 150 ($ 160) for the tour + processing fees
Wait, what tour? you might be wondering… Well, as the tour company represents you as your ‘inviting host’ and is responsible for getting the approval letter, they offer the LOI as part of a tour package. The minimum package includes a tour and hotel/hostel accommodation for your whole stay. So you are actually getting a bit more than you are asking for 🙂
5 simple(?) steps to your LOI
Now that you are ready with everything you need to get the LOI, here is a step by step guide on what to do next. It is advisable to start this process + the process of applying for a visa 1 month before your arrival to Kazakhstan.
Step 1 : Fill out the small form on the right side on this link here.
After filling out the form and clicking ‘Get Visa Support’, you will soon (on a working day) receive an email from a very friendly lady at Almaty City Tour. She will send you some useful instructions and two attachments with the email.
Step 2 : Print and fill out the simple ‘Application Form’ and ‘Letter of Guarantee’ you received by email. They should look like the following :
After you have made your choices, inform them by email so they can arrange an invoice for your total payment.
Step 4 : As you receive the invoice, you need to send in a second email with (scanned) copies of your passport, residence permit, booked flights, and the two forms you filled up on Step 2.
Step 5 : Make your payment. You can pay either with credit card or bank transfer. But trust me, credit card payment would be the better option. Bank transfers can cost you an additional € 30 transfer fee at least…
After they receive your payment, they will start processing your LOI. In the meantime, they will send your booking confirmations of the tour and accommodation. Once your LOI is ready, you will receive it on email so there is no need to worry, just give it a week or so 😉
Getting your Kazakh Tourist Visa
Congratulations on getting your Letter of Invitation to Kazakhstan! That wasn’t so bad was it? I know, it looks a bit complicated and can get annoying but as long as you have the stuff you need to get through your LOI process efficiently, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. You just need to invest a little bit of time.
Well, just one more thing you need to do before your flight takes off for this amazing, huge country! It’s time to apply for your visa. A single entry Kazakh travel visa is valid for 30 days! Depending on where you live, it can be really simple or complicated. But as long as you have the LOI and other necessary documents they need, it shouldn’t be much of a hassle. Always double check with your local Kazakh embassy/consulate for the exact required documents to submit.
But generally, this is what you will need :
– Passport + Residence Permit
– Completed application form (usually available for download at the embassy’s website)
– Passport-sized photo
– Letter of Invitation as well as your flight, accommodation, and tour bookings
– A formal letter written by you to the consul officer stating the purpose and duration of your visit
– Proof of Fees to be paid for visa processing
Once you submit all the required documents to the consul officer, he will ask you a few questions and notify you when you should pick up your passport. Normally it takes only a few working days. In my case, the visa was issued on the same day of my application submission (though ‘officially’ I picked it up 3 days later).
And voila! You have finally gone through all the bureaucratic process to your Kazakh travel visa! Now that you have your visa and all other important documents with you, it’s time to get on board that flight waiting for you to fly you to Kazakhstan! Have a great journey! 🙂
Oh and there is one very important thing you need to keep in mind!!
No matter where you are from, if you are staying in Kazakhstan more than 5 days (even as a visitor), it is necessary that you formally register yourself with the local authorities! Otherwise you could face some trouble with the authorities when you leave the country.