Visa Guide to central asia
What visas do I need for Central Asia and how do I get them?
It’s a popular question and our short visa guide to Central Asia will help. The bad news is that there isn’t a single “Stans” visa for Central Asia similar to the Schengen visa for Europe.
The good news is that in recent years visa restrictions have been substantially reduced, particularly for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Let’s look at each country one by one…
Kazakhstan – No visa needed for most Westerners!
For stays of up to 30 days, citizens of the following countries need no visa to enter Kazakhstan: All European Union countries, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States and Uzbekistan.
For stays up to 90 days, citizens of these countries need no visa to enter Kazakhstan: Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine. Hong Kong passport holders will not require a visa for a stay of up to 14 days.
For those who need a visa:
Citizens of all other countries need to get a visa from the Kazakh diplomatic mission in their country. As visa requirements vary from country to country, we’d advise contacting the nearest embassy directly to confirm what you’ll need to do.
Visa on arrival at the Airport:
If you don’t have a Kazakh diplomatic mission in your country and you are not from a country with a visa-free regime, then you can obtain your visa on arrival. This can only be done at the airport in Aktau, Almaty, Astana, Atyrau or Oral Ak Zhol. However, to get such a visa you must hold an invitation letter that has been approved by the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
How to get your letter of invitation
Any travel agency, like us, will apply for a letter of invitation on your behalf if you book a tour or other services from them. Please allow 2 to 3 weeks for the entire process of getting the invitation letter issued and approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Please note: No travel agency can guarantee that Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs will approve your letter of invitation. If the Ministry rejects it, they are not required to inform you of the reason for such rejection.
Kyrgyzstan – No visa needed for most Westerners!
Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa to visit Kyrgyzstan for up to 60 days (longer for some nationalities):
European Union citizens (except Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania), Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Canada, Cuba, Georgia, Iceland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, New Zealand, North Korea, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uzbekistan and Vatican City. Citizens of Malaysia and Turkey can also visit Kyrgyzstan visa-free for up to 30 days.
Visa upon arrival at Manas Airport (Bishkek)
This option applies to citizens of the following countries: Albania, Argentina, Cyprus, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Israel, the Philippines, Macedonia, Chile, Montenegro, Oman, Serbia, Venezuela, Thailand, Romania, Mexico, San Marino and Republic of South Africa. Citizens of these countries also do not need an invitation letter when applying for a visa. Taiwanese citizens can obtain a visa on arrival, but they must pre-arrange an invitation for a landing visa before they travel.
Citizens of all other countries must have an invitation letter approved by the Kyrgyz Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to applying for a visa. Please take care of the timing of your application. It takes 2 weeks to issue and approve a letter of invitation which is then valid for one month. In practice, therefore, from the moment you get the invitation letter you have a month to apply for your visa at the embassy. Failure to do so within the allotted time means that you would need to begin the invitation letter process again.
Visa application process
Visa processing time at an embassy is usually five days. In urgent cases this process can be fast-tracked to take three days. If you plan to apply by post, please allow sufficient time to send and receive back your passport. For exact requirements please check the website of the embassy where you are applying for your visa.
Tajikistan – Electronic Visa by Email within 2 days
The visa-free regime for Tajikistan applies only to citizens of nine, mostly CIS, countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.
However, since 1 June 2016 citizens of an additional 78 countries have been able to apply online for an electronic visa for stays with a duration of up to 45 days. It is a very straightforward process. All you need to do is to visit the website www.evisa.tj. There, enter all your personal information, upload a copy of your passport and pay a fee of $50 by credit card via the website. Where you are asked to provide an address in Tajikistan, just enter the address of a hotel you have booked or that you expect to stay at.
Please note: You have the option to select whether you would like a GBAO (Gordo-Badakhshan Autonomous Province) permit for $20. If you intend to visit the Pamir Mountains you will need this, so make sure you have ticked the box. On your electronic visa, it will then mention that you have this permit as well.
Once you have paid for the visa and if applicable the GBAO permit, you will receive an electronic visa by email within two days. You’ll need to print out that electronic visa and bring it with you to Tajikistan. At the border, you need to show it together with your passport.
Citizens of the following countries are eligible for this electronic visa: All European Union countries, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Untied States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam and Yemen.
Ordinary visa process
If your country is not on this list you will need to apply for a visa at the nearest Tajik Diplomatic Mission. Please check the precise requirements on their website.
Turkmenistan – Getting a visa is a lottery
Transit visa from an embassy without a letter of invitation
Citizens of all countries need a visa for Turkmenistan. For a transit visa (valid for between 3 and 7 days) you do not need an invitation letter. However, regardless of your nationality or the place where you apply for it, getting the transit visa is a lottery. Your chances of getting one on average are around 50:50. You need to apply for a transit visa at a Turkmen consulate and in most cases, you are required to show up in person. Please note: The approval process for a transit visa takes up to three weeks. Find your nearest Diplomatic Mission of Turkmenistan and plan your visa application process.
Tourist Visa upon arrival – with letter of invitation
Even if your stay in Turkmenistan is short enough to qualify for a transit visa, it is safer to apply for a tourist visa. However, you should be aware that although such visas are more likely to be approved than a transit visa, rejection rates are still quite high.
To have a chance of being issued with a visa, you need to have booked a tour. You will need to provide personal information including your nationality, age, gender, marital status plus your field of study and/or occupation to your travel agency. They will apply on your behalf for an invitation letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. The ministry makes the decision to issue a letter (or not) based on the information that you provide. Three months before you plan to leave Turkmenistan you may start the application process for your invitation letter. It then takes the ministry another three weeks to approve the letter. The good thing is, you do not need to apply for the visa at the embassy. If your invitation letter is approved you can just take it with you and get your visa upon arrival at Ashgabat Airport or at an international land border. So, the difficult and time-consuming part is getting the invitation letter approved.
Do not book flights before your invitation letter is approved
Because you will not know whether or not you are able to get the visa until around two months before your planned arrival in Turkmenistan we strongly suggest you hold off on all non-refundable bookings such as airfares until your invitation letter for Turkmenistan is approved. If you book a tour with us that includes Turkmenistan we will always provide an alternative route without Turkmenistan for those whose visa applications are rejected. If you prefer, you may also decide to cancel the tour altogether. If the reason for cancellation is a rejected visa application, we will refund your deposit payment in full.
Uzbekistan – Tourist visa at the Embassy or Airport
Citizens of nine CIS countries do not need a visa to visit Uzbekistan for up to 90 days: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine.
Citizens of another 7 countries do not need a visa for up to 30 days: Israel, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan
Citizens from all other countries need a visa. For stays of up to 72 hours, you can apply for a transit visa, in which case you need no invitation letter.
Facilitated visa regime
Uzbekistan operates what’s known as a facilitated visa regime. In practice, this means that passport holders of qualifying countries can obtain multiple entry visas for stays of up to one month without requiring a letter of invitation. Here is the list of countries that can obtain visa for Uzbekistan with a facilitated procedure:
- Czech Republic
- The United Kingdom.
Here is the list of countries that can obtain visa for Uzbekistan with a facilitated procedure from February 1, 2018
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- China, including the Hong Kong SAR
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
- United States of America
However, you do still need to apply for the visa at the embassy directly and you may still be required to provide a letter of invitation if you obtain visa outside your country of citizenship. Processing time for visas at the embassies usually takes around ten working days. It is possible to send your passport by post and have it sent back to you by the same method, in which case you’ll need to allow a few days extra to complete the process.
Starting from 1 July 2018, Uzbekistan is planning to introduce a system electronic visas for citizens.
Visa with invitation letter
If you are a citizen of any other country you need to get a letter of invitation approved by Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs first. Only then can you apply for the visa at your nearest embassy. Please note: requirements and fees vary so please check directly with the embassy you intend to use. A travel agency can apply on your behalf for the invitation letter if you supply the required information to them. Please allow three weeks in such cases to get your invitation letter approved.
Visa at Tashkent International Airport
If there is no Diplomatic Mission of Uzbekistan in your country or from the country from which your flight departs, you will be able to get your visa at the airport in Tashkent. To do so, you will require an approved invitation letter. The visa counter at the Airport is open 24/7 and you will just need to bring between 60-80 USD in cash together with your invitation letter. The visa will be issued immediately and there will be no need to fill out an application form.
List of Uzbek Diplomatic Missions abroad
Here you can find a list of all Uzbek Diplomatic Missions abroad including contact information
Visa application form
Regardless of where you apply, the application form is always the same.
For more info – contact us
We hope this information was useful and wish you a fantastic trip to Central Asia!
Your Kalpak Travel Team.