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Kazakhstan 2016 | DIPLOMACY | FOCUS: FREE VISA REGIME

Kazakhstan is opening itself up to the world. A new visa-free regime for 19 countries will make travel to the country that much easier for those who want to invest or visit.

Kazakhstan is keen on attracting FDI in various sectors of its economy. The country has improved its position by 36 points in the World Bank and International Finance Corporation's Doing Business 2016 report. The country is now placed at 41st among 189 countries; its best rank in the history of Kazakhstan's participation in the study. Certain measures, such as eliminating registration fees for SMEs, shortening registration times, and eliminating the legal requirements to use a company seal, have been applied by the government in an effort to increase the country's inventiveness for potential investors.

In June 2015, the government launched the initiative to extend the number of countries with visa-free access to the country. Now, citizens from 19 additional countries will not need visas to get into the country for a specified period of time. The list now includes: Australia, Hungary, Italy, Monaco, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Malaysia, the UAE, Singapore, the UK, the US, Germany, Finland, France, Switzerland, and Japan. The new protocol for these select countries will last until December 31, 2017. This applies to any potential traveler who wants to visit the country for business, tourism, or to visit friends or relatives. The new system will allow travelers to enter and leave without a visa for a maximum of 15 days after their initial entry into Kazakhstan. There is no limit to the number of trips to the country a visitor can make.
This project, it is hoped, will increase the number of foreign tourists to Kazakhstan, and thus make the country more attractive. The government in Astana also anticipates the ease in regulations will boost attendance of the two international events the country is set to host: EXPO 2017 International Specialized Exhibition in Astana, and the 2017 Winter University in Almaty. Furthermore, the move is intended to strengthen bilateral relations between the countries and boost the level of the country's foreign investment, which has for some time been one of Astana's key priorities.

Previously, Kazakhstan approved visa-free travel for up to 90 days for citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Ukraine. Citizens of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Argentina, Turkey, and South Korea are allowed to stay in the country without a visa for up to 30 days.

The ease in travel regulations for foreigners will bring positive effects to any investor looking to participate in a priority sector of the country, such as metallurgy, engineering, construction materials, and food production. In addition to not needing a visa to enter the country, prospective investors will also have advantages like no land or corporate income tax for 10 years, and no property tax for eight years. There are also exemptions for customs duties on importing certain material and supplies.

Enacting visa-free travel is just the beginning of Astana's plans to open the country to the world. Kazakhstan is also aiming to launch an open-labor market. The country will work to ensure the possibility of hiring a foreign labor force in addition to extending the time limit construction workers can stay in the country to over one year.