NEW DELHI: Visa-related cooperation between Kazakhstan and India will undergo a further positive change with the Government of Kazakhstan introducing a 72-hour-long transit visa free regime for Indian citizens from April 17 to December 31, 2018.
Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to India Bulat Sarsenbayev told ANI on Wednesday only those citizens of India would be eligible for this facility who fly with Kazakhstan’s national carrier Air Astana or any other Kazakh airline and are transiting via international airports in Astana and/or Almaty to a third country or returning from a third country via Astana and/or Almaty.
The 72-hour transit visa free regime is generally applicable to both individual passengers and tour groups.
He said that Kazakhstan and India are very keen to simplify the existing visa regime and are working towards offering the facility on a reciprocal basis.
Ambassador Sarsenbayev said Almaty has emerged as a cost-effective and attractive travel/transit hub for airline passengers.
“This 72-hour transit visa free regime will help people going to Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Previously, when applying for visa, the process would take between 10 to 14 days. Now, a visa is issued in two days. Last year, from January, we changed the visa regime to make it easier for Indian businessmen. They now just have to approach the consular section of the embassy to apply for the visa and they get a single entry visa in two days. Before, they had to get letters of permission from companies they were planning to visit or interact with as proof to establish that their visit was a bonafide one,” said the Kazakh envoy. “There are only two countries – China and India – that have this facility of transit visa free regime in this region. Also, India has included Kazakhstan on its list for giving visas online since March 2017. Kazakhstan is planning to do so, in two or three months. We want this to be a reciprocal arrangement,” he added.
“The number visas that are now being granted by Kazakhstan has increased over three-fold in the last three years. In 2014, we issued a total of 6000 visas; in 2017, we have issued over 19000 visas. In terms of visa cost, it is only now that there is some sort of equality. Previously, the Indian visa cost USD 100 and our visa cost USD 60. Now, with the introduction of electronic visa, the cost of an Indian visa is USD 50 and ours is still USD 60,” Ambassador Sarsenbayev said.
He also informed that now there are 11 flights every week between India and Kazakhstan – seven to Almaty and four to Astana. Last year, there were only seven flights. Talks are on with GMR Group, which manages infrastructure-related operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport to give more space for Kazakh airlines, he added.