Kazakhstan - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.

Last published date: 2022-09-02

Business Customs

Kazakhstan draws on a combination of Russian and Central Asian cultural influences, and customs may depend on the ethnicity of the person with whom you are meeting.  It is customary to shake hands and call people by their first name and patronymic (adaptation of the fathers first name) at business meetings and at informal gatherings, though use of just the first name is also acceptable.  Business attire is generally a suit and tie for men, and a suit or business dress for women.  Refreshments are usually served at business meetings - coffee, tea and water are the norms.  Small gifts (pens, company logo pins, portfolios, and books) are frequently given at the end of an initial meeting as a token of appreciation.  Business cards are the norm, often printed in both Russian and English.

Scheduling meetings can be difficult, but this is also the norm. It can sometimes take weeks to get a response to an email, fax, or a telephone message request for a meeting.  Once contact has been established, patience is still required to confirm a date and time to meet.  It is not uncommon for meetings to be cancelled with no explanation. Since traffic is a problem in Almaty and Nur-Sultan, company representatives appreciate meeting at their office locations, but are not averse to accepting an invitation for a lunch meeting.

Kazakhstani businesspeople are generally less direct than their American counterparts. What can be accomplished in a few meetings in the U.S. might take more in Kazakhstan, requiring patience and discipline on the part of the American. An experienced and competent interpreter can be invaluable to your business meetings.

Though most Kazakhstanis are Muslim, business travelers with experience in Islamic countries will find the country to be very secular, and many practices that exist elsewhere are not widely observed here, although this is slowly changing. It is not uncommon for people to consume alcohol at dinner functions or receptions.

Travel Advisory

Please see the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory for Kazakhstan.

Visa Requirements 

A valid passport is required. The Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington, D.C., and the Consulates of Kazakhstan in New York and San Francisco issue visas. U.S. Citizens may visit Kazakhstan without a visa for up to 30 days for all purposes of travel with the exceptions of employment and missionary work. Individuals traveling visa-free in Kazakhstan cannot stay for longer than 30 days at once or for more than a total of 90 days during any six-month period. The most up to date information about entry and exit requirements can be found on the U.S. Mission in Kazakhstan’s Covid-19 information page.    

The Embassy of Kazakhstan

1401 16th Street NW

Washington, DC  20036

Telephone (202) 232-5488 ext. 122

Consuldc16@gmail.com

 

The Kazakhstani Consulate in New York

866 United Nations Plaza; Suite 586 A

New York, NY  10017

(929) 310-7494

kzconsulny@gmail.com; consul.newyork@mfa.kz


The Kazakhstani Consulate in San Francisco

580 California Street, Office 1220

San Francisco, CA 94104

(628) 502-3741

qazconsulsf@gmail.com; sanfrancisco@mfa.kz 

On January 1, 2017, the Kazakhstani government implemented a visa waiver program that allows U.S. citizen travelers to enter Kazakhstan for most purposes of travel (excluding employment and engaging in religious activities) without a visa for stays up to 30 days.  U.S. citizens wishing to visit Kazakhstan for longer than 30 days will be required to obtain a visa.  Since December 29, 2016, the U.S. and Kazakhstan have issued ten-year multiple-entry visas on a reciprocal basis to most applicants traveling for tourism, business, and medical treatment. Among other travel purposes for which five-year visas may be issued are diplomatic and official travel, education/participation in exchange programs and journalism.  An invitation is not usually required for business and tourist visas.  The U.S. Embassy in Nur-Sultan and the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty cannot provide any visa assistance to those interested in private travel to Kazakhstan. Travelers may be asked to provide proof at the border of their subsequent travel arrangements. Travelers should be aware that those overstaying the validity period of a visa, or the visa waiver pilot program’s 30-day limit may face possible fines and delays upon exit.

Most visa categories cannot be extended in Kazakhstan.  Exceptions to this rule are student visas, visas for medical treatment, visas for permanent residents of Kazakhstan, and work visas, which can be extended in Kazakhstan up to the expiration date of the holder’s work permit, a separate document issued only in Kazakhstan.  Business visas can be extended domestically if the traveler is in Kazakhstan at the invitation of the Government of Kazakhstan, a diplomatic mission or international organization in Kazakhstan.

As of January 11, 2020, self-registration is no longer required for travelers to Kazakhstan.  It is the responsibility of the Kazakhstani host or inviting party (hotel, landlord, employer, school, individual, etc.) to report foreigners’ arrival within three working days.  Notification can be done online or in person at a local Migration Police office. If foreigners substantially change their location by traveling and staying in a different city or residing in a different jurisdiction, their host should report the new location to the local Migration Police. 

Some HIV/AIDS restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Kazakhstan.  Visitors applying for a work or residency permit, required for U.S. citizens who wish to spend more than 6 months in Kazakhstan, must submit negative HIV test results with their application to the Migration Police in the city where they intend to work or reside.  The results must be less than three months old.  The city HIV clinic in the place of registration can conduct the test or may certify test results performed abroad.  If the original test results are in a language other than Russian or Kazakh, they must be accompanied by an official translation.  If a foreigner tests positive for HIV in Kazakhstan, he or she must depart the country. 

Inviting Your Business Contacts to the United States

The U.S. Mission supports business travel to the United States by making the U.S. visa process as efficient and transparent as possible.  We encourage travelers to apply for U.S. visas 6-12 months before their planned departure to allow time for any special processing requirements or seasonal delays, which are now common due to backlogs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Visa appointment wait times may be significantly longer during periods of high demand, and estimated appointment wait times are available on the State Department Visa website.  Kazakhstani citizens wishing to renew a business or tourist visa may be eligible to apply without a new interview.  U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process.  For more information on U.S. visa requirements and validity, please consult either the State Department Visa Website or the U.S. Embassy’s visa information page.

U.S. Embassy in Nur-Sultan
Raqymjan Qoshqarbayev Avenue 3,
Nur-Sultan 010000, Kazakhstan
https://kz.usembassy.gov/

 

U.S. Consulate in Almaty
Samal-2, 97 Zholdasbekov Street,

Almaty, 050051, Kazakhstan,

https://kz.usembassy.gov/

Currency

The currency of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the tenge (KZT). There is a currency exchange kiosk located at Nur-Sultan and Almaty airports and in many places across most cities.  Most banks are open from 09:00 AM to 6:00 PM from Monday to Friday.  Major international debit/credit cards including Visa and MasterCard are accepted in most hotels, major department stores, restaurants, and supermarkets.  Small businesses and family-run stores may not accept bank cards, so it is useful to keep a moderate amount of cash on hand.

 Exchange rate (July 27, 2022)

1USD = 480.16 KZT

Telecommunications/Electronics  

Telephone coverage in Kazakhstan remains less than universal and Internet connections are not ideal especially in remote areas, but there is significant progress in providing high speed internet in the largest cities of the country. Kazakhstan has a well-developed mobile network infrastructure. The number of cellular users has surpassed the number of landlines.  As of April 2022, there were more than 17 million cellular subscribers with access to the internet, and 2.8 million registered fixed internet subscribers. There are three major mobile operators (Kcell, Beeline, Tele2) in Kazakhstan providing services in GSM standard. Most business travelers with roaming capabilities will have no problem using mobile phones here.  Both land line and cellular rates in Kazakhstan are higher than in Europe, especially for domestic long distance and international calls. VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram and Viber have become popular during the last few years in Kazakhstan. 

Business travelers can obtain Internet access via most hotels, but at a price.  Wi-Fi at cafes and restaurants is more and more common in Almaty and Nur-Sultan, including at shopping and entertainment facilities and at the airports. However, many expatriates living in larger cities still find it difficult to get high-speed Internet access. 

Transportation

Though Kazakhstan’s capital moved to Astana (now Nur-Sultan) in 1997, Almaty remains the country’s business hub. Business travelers tend to arrive to Almaty via Frankfurt, Istanbul, Dubai, or London, though there are also several other international connections.  Kazakhstan’s national airline, Air Astana, has a fairly modern fleet of Airbuses and Boeings along with direct flights from major European cities such as London, Istanbul, and Frankfurt, so it is an alternative to European airlines.  It is roughly a 5–7-hour flight from Europe. 

Kazakhstan has fully restored international air travel to pre-pandemic levels. Kazakhstan has direct flights to 24 countries via 99 routes before COVID-19 the COVID-19 pandemic, while Kazakhstan airlines now operate flights to 27 countries through 106 international routes. Previously, there were approximately 440 flights a week and the current figure accounts for 476 flights per week. In 2022, Kazakhstan launched direct flights to Italy and Greece and resumed flights to China. The government seeks to open more international routes, including direct flights to the United States.

In-country travel is available on Air Astana, its low-fare carrier Fly Arystan, or SCAT Airlines. Some smaller scale companies also offer limited services within Kazakhstan. There is also a high-speed, overnight train between Almaty and Nur-Sultan. 

For inner-city transportation, companies are strongly advised to use licensed taxi services.  Popular mobile phone applications such as Uber and Yandex Taxi are also widely used in Kazakhstan. Companies can also hire private drivers at a reasonable cost.  For a list of driving service providers, see the U.S. Mission Commercial Section’s Business Service Providers’ listing

Language

Despite a national movement to encourage the use of the Kazakh language, Russian is still widely used, especially in business.  Both Kazakh and Russian languages usually appear on road signs, at stores and on product packaging. In accordance with the adopted “Kazakhstan’s Development Strategy 2050”, a policy of trilingualism is actively pursued, aimed at developing not only Kazakh, but Russian and English languages by the people of Kazakhstan. Today English is one of Kazakhstan’s three official languages and occasionally appears on some signs.  Travelers will also find that English skills are quite strong in the service industries in major cities. Though good interpreters demand a premium price, business travelers are well advised to ensure they have a qualified interpreter in business meetings.

In October 2017 Kazakhstan President signed and amended in 2018 a decree for transition of Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin script.  The deadline to complete the transition is 2025.

U.S. firms exploring the market are encouraged to hire local interpreters to assist ensure accurate communication with potential partners/buyers in the market.  For a list of local translation and interpretation service providers, see the U.S. Mission’s Commercial Section’s Business Service Providers’ listing

Health

Current health information for travelers to Kazakhstan can be found on the CDC website.   HEALTH IN KAZAKHSTAN

Medical Care

Medical care throughout the country is generally below Western/international standards, especially in rural areas. Adequate evacuation coverage for all travelers is a high priority. Any serious medical condition will require evacuation. Western Europe is a frequent destination. One or more JCI accredited hospitals are present in Nur-Sultan and Almaty. Adequate medical care for routine minor-care medical situations is available at 1 or more internationally staffed outpatient clinics. Shortages of routine medications and supplies are common.

For a private ambulance in Nur-Sultan, call International SOS Nur-Sultan Clinic at [+7] 7172-476-911 or [+7] 7017-459-876. For a private ambulance in Almaty, call International SOS Clinic Almaty at [+7] 7272-581-911. For a public ambulance anywhere in the country, call 103. The national medical emergency number is 112. Public ambulances are not reliable outside of major cities. A taxi (from official ranks or dispatched via smart phone app or radio from a reputable company) or private car is the recommended means of transport to the hospital outside of major cities.

Upfront payment by cash, up to the total of all anticipated charges, is generally required by hospitals catering to foreigners prior to services or treatment. Upfront payment may be waived by hospitals that have existing cashless agreements with at least some major international insurance providers.

Climate

The climate may be extreme with typically long and snowy winters. On the Steppe, the average January temperature is -14 ° C with occasional drops to -40°C. Caution must be exercised to prevent frostbite. Wear warm gloves and do not forget to protect exposed areas of the face, i.e. tips of the nose and ears.

Water

Drinking water comes from underground sources.  Consumption of tap water is unlikely to be harmful in large cities. However, it does have high salt and mineral content, and may contain pesticides from agricultural runoff. It is okay to brush your teeth and wash foods with tap water. Water in rural areas may not be safe for consumption.

Surface waters (streams, rivers, and ponds) are likely to be contaminated with animal waste. Recommendations are to avoid contact with these waters in the region.

Air

Air quality is typically good in the summer but on a seasonal basis reaches levels hazardous to health with high concentrations of particulate (PM2.5) air pollution. In winter months, particulate concentrations may be severely high. Particulate air pollution may have immediate adverse effects on people with respiratory and cardio-vascular health issues. Long term exposure effects can include respiratory diseases, lung cancer, and heart attacks.

 Foods

 Travelers should avoid:

  • Food from street vendors or market stalls.
  • Leafy or uncooked vegetables and salads, because some organisms in soil and water are not destroyed by normal cleaning methods.
  • Garnishes, which are typically uncooked vegetables, fruits, or herbs.
  • Undercooked, raw, or cold meat, seafood, and fish, including large carnivorous fish (especially from reef areas because many contain concentrated toxins). See Seafood Poisoning.
  • Unpasteurized dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and milk.
  • Ice cream and other frozen confections that may have been made or stored in contaminated containers.
  • Creamy desserts, custards, or sauces that may not have been adequately refrigerated.
  • Cold sauces such as mayonnaise, salad dressing, chutneys, or salsas, which are usually raw and made by hand.
  • Buffet foods such as lasagna, casseroles, and quiches, unless they are known to be fresh (not reheated) and have been kept steaming hot.
  • Self-serve buffets with high-touch utensils or without food covers or fly controls.

 Alcohol:

Kazakhstan produces and enjoys quality alcoholic beverages. Most alcoholic beverages are true to their labeling. However, throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), bootleg alcohol with poisonous wood alcohol is known to occur, so alcohol should be purchased from reputable sources.  Kazakhstan has a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving. Driving under the influence of any alcohol is strictly forbidden.Diseases and Common Health Problems

Covid

All travelers should be up-to-date (i.e., boosted) on COVID-19 vaccinations prior to their trip. Persons who are not up-to-date should avoid all nonessential travel to this country. Persons who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (even if up-to-date) should consider delaying nonessential travel to this country. Travelers should wear a well-fitting mask in indoor public spaces. All travelers should follow destination recommendations for masking and social distancing.

Other Health

This recommendation is based on aggregate national data, available medical care, and access to testing.

Travelers’ Diarrhea

Moderate risk exists throughout the country, including in deluxe accommodations. Food and beverage precautions may reduce the likelihood of illness.

Travelers should carry loperamide for self-treatment of diarrhea and azithromycin to add if diarrhea is severe.

Tuberculosis (TB):  

Tuberculosis is a problem in Kazakhstan.  A documented interferon gamma release assay or, alternatively, a tuberculin skin test is recommended before departure and after return for stays longer than 1 month for health care workers and those with anticipated exposure in prisons, homeless shelters, refugee camps, or shanty towns.

Infectious Hepatitis:

Hepatitis A and B vaccination are recommended for those living in or traveling to Kazakhstan. 

Typhoid fever

Recommended for: all travelers.

Influenza

Risk exists from November through April, with peak activity usually occurring in February, although off-season transmission can occur.

Measles, mumps, rubella

Due to recurring regional outbreaks, immunity is important for travel to this destination.

Tick-borne encephalitis

Low risk exists in northern, southern, and eastern areas, mainly in Almaty, North Kazakhstan, and East Kazakhstan provinces. Risk may exist in western areas, but current epidemiologic data are unavailable. Transmission occurs from April through October.

Consider for prolonged and short stays: expatriates and travelers who anticipate extensive hiking, camping, or other outdoor activities in forested low-risk areas and areas with potential risk.

Rabies

Rabies vaccine is recommended for Kazakhstan. Risk of rabies is present in most parts of the country and cases of human rabies have been reported. One should be cautious about dealing with strange animals and should make sure that their own pets are vaccinated.

Routine Vaccinations

  • Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis
  • Due to increasingly frequent pertussis outbreaks worldwide, all travelers should receive Tdap vaccine every 10 years, assuming they previously received an adequate primary series. Those who received Td or TT for their most recent booster should receive an immediate dose of Tdap, regardless of the interval since the last tetanus dose.
  • Pneumococcal
  • Recommended for adults aged ≥ 65 years and all adults with chronic disease or immunocompromising conditions.
  • Varicella

Indicated for all persons born outside the US or born in the US in or after 1980, except for persons with an adequate vaccination history (2 lifetime doses), reliable evidence of previous infection, or laboratory confirmation of immunity.

Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays

Eastern Kazakhstan (which includes Almaty and Nur-Sultan) is 10 or 11 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST), depending on the time of year (Kazakhstan does not practice day light savings, which U.S. will stop practicing from 2023 as well, in which case the time difference between Eastern Kazakhstan and EST would be fixed to 10 hours).  Business hours are normally 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Local holidays can be found on the Embassy’s website (https://kz.usembassy.gov/holiday-calendar/) but travelers are also advised to confirm dates with contacts in Kazakhstan. If a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, the Government of Kazakhstan may elect to make the preceding Monday or following Friday a holiday as well, thereby linking the holiday to the weekend. 

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

The ATA Carnet temporary import system was recently launched in Kazakhstan, allowing allows the duty-free temporary import and export of goods for specific purposes. Kazakhstan will accept ATA Carnets for the intended uses of:

  • Professional Equipment
  • Commercial Samples
  • Exhibitions and Fairs

A firm importing goods for a temporary period should provide Customs with documents containing the description and value of the goods, and a written confirmation stating that the goods will be sent out of Kazakhstan after a defined period.