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Central Asian country, Kazakhstan has announced that it will expand its visa-free travel program to 19 countries across the world – allowing visitors to access the country for a period of 15 days without a visa.
The move follows a successful 12-month pilot scheme which waived visa requirements for short-term visitors from ten nations. The Kazakhstan government has made the decision to extend this to an additional nine countries until December 31, 2017.
Of the 19 countries, many European nations are involved including Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Other countries include Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, the UAE and the US.
A few months after the launch of the pilot project, South Korea which was in the initial list, signed an agreement with Kazakhstan on mutual visa-free travel for a period of up to 30 days.
Kalmukhanbet Kassymov, Kazakhstan's minister of internal affairs, said: "I am pleased to confirm the extension of a visa waiver. As a rapidly growing economy and a place of great natural beauty, Kazakhstan has a lot to offer to both tourists and business travellers, and we are delighted to welcome them."
Previously, travellers had to pay £35 for a single-entry tourist visa, complete a visa application form, have hotel booking confirmations and a letter addressed to the consular section of the Kazakhstan embassy.
The new regime means that registration of citizens from the countries included will be made directly at border crossings when entering the territory of Kazakhstan, meaning they do not need to register at hotels or migration police units.
Kazakhstan has recently embarked on a diversification program aimed at developing targeted sectors such as transport, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, petrochemicals and food processing. In 2010, it joined the Belarus – Kazakhstan – Russia Customs Union in an attempt to boost foreign investment and improve trade relationships.
The government hopes that “the project will help increase the inflow of foreign tourists to Kazakhstan, including those wishing to attend major international events scheduled in the next two years, among them the EXPO 2017 International Specialised Exhibition in Astana and the 2017 Winter Universiade in Almaty.”
Today, Kazakhstan offers a visa-free regime for up to 90 days to citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia and Ukraine. Citizens of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Argentine, Turkey and South Korea are allowed visa-free entry for up to 30 days.
Kazakhstan national carrier, Air Astana will benefit from the relaxation on the visas. The airline has emerged as one of the pioneers of the modern aviation era in Central Asia despite only being in its thirteenth year of operation.
A joint venture between Kazakhstan’s national wealth fund, Samruk Kazyna, and BAE Systems, it commenced regular flight operations on May 15, 2002 and currently operates a network of 64 routes between 39 international and domestic destinations. It currently has a fleet of 30 aircraft including three Boeing 767-300ER, five Boeing 757-200, thirteen Airbus A320 family aircraft and nine Embraer E190s.
Seychellois Receive Visa Waiver for UAE Entry
In a further example of the relaxation of visa restrictions, Seychellois passport holders from July 16, 2015 are able to travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) without the need for a visa. The development will allow Seychellois to visit the UAE for a period of up to 90 days, without needing to apply for a visa before travelling with waiver system permitting a visa to be granted free of charge on arrival.
“This visa waiver simplifies travel to the UAE for Seychellois passport holders and brings our two countries, which have longstanding bilateral relations, closer together,” said Joël Morgan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Transport in the Seychelles and Chairman of Air Seychelles.
“It signals a clear intent to build on our existing relationship and symbolises the deep level of trust between Seychelles and the UAE, our largest outbound travel destination and the country with most air connections to our archipelago.
This visa waiver is reciprocated through Seychelles’ policy of granting all foreign visitors a visa on arrival, including UAE nationals, which has contributed to the UAE becoming the country’s fourth-largest inbound tourism market, with a major growth since UAE carrier Etihad Airways became an equity partner in Air Seychelles.
With effect from the start of this month, the combined number of return flights operated by Air Seychelles and Etihad Airways between Seychelles and Abu Dhabi increased to 14 per week. The flights are operated on an Airbus A320 aircraft in a two-class configuration, with 16 Business Class and 120 Economy Class seats, offering more than 3,800 seats on the route each week.
“This visa waiver development makes travel to the UAE more affordable and convenient for Seychellois, who no longer need to pay or wait for a visa to be processed,” said Roy Kinnear, chief executive officer, Air Seychelles. “The UAE is a popular holiday and business destination for Seychellois, in particular for its shopping opportunities.”
Latest travel figures show that in the first half of 2015, a total of 4,425 Seychellois travelled to the UAE, representing a significant 26 per cent of all departures. In turn, some 8,646 Emirati nationals have visited Seychelles in the first half this year.
“In response to such strong travel demand, in both directions, we have worked with Etihad Airways to enhance our combined schedules and together offer double-daily flights between Seychelles and the UAE. This visa waiver also makes it convenient for our guests to add a stopover in Abu Dhabi to their travel plans; for instance, combining a flight with Air Seychelles to Mumbai and returning on a codeshare flight on Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi,” added Kinnear.