Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Visas: Kazakhstan

Update 25th October 2015: the Kazakhstan extended the visa free regime for 19 countries, lasting until the end of 2017. Countries include: Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UAE, the U. K. and the U.S. This means passport holders from these countries can enter without having to pre-apply for a visa, and without paying any visa fees.

We finally made the decision to apply for our Kazakhstan visa. We couldn't wait any longer to see if the visa free regime would be extended (due to needing to apply for other visas), so opted to get a 30 day tourist visa. There seems to be some confusion over what is necessary for this visa, some people have read that you need to submit a letter of employment. We didn't bother and still got our visa. We added a copy of our Mongol Rally entry confirmation, mainly because I had a copy on my desk, and also because I feel it gives a bit more credence to our travel plans that are mentioned in the cover letter. Some quick facts:
  • Cost: £42 per person (including signed for postage and consular fee)
  • Visa Duration: 30 days
  • Number of Entries: Single
  • Visa Processing Time: 1 Week
  • Place of Application and Nationalities: London and UK Citizens
  • Application Date: 11th May 2015 (over 3 months in advance)

So how did we do it? Firstly here is our little check list of things you will need per person:
  • Passport Photo 35 mm x 45 mm (x1)
  • Printed Application Form (x1)
  • Cover Letter (x1)
  • B&W Photocopy of Main Passport Page (x1)
  • Copy of Mongol Rally Entry Confirmation - Not Essential (x1)
  • Copy of Hostel/Hotel Booking Confirmation (x1)
  • Copy of Travel Insurance Certificate (x1)

Step 1 - The Hotel Booking

Having to book a hotel is a pain, especially when you are unsure about dates. Luckily there is a neat little trick that bypasses some of the uncertainty and costs you nothing. The wonderful booking.com allows you to book a hotel/hostel without paying a deposit. They also allow you to cancel your booking at no cost up to a few weeks before your booking starts! This is fantastic as it helps satisfy your visa criteria, allows you to have some flexibility, and costs absolutely nothing.

As we wanted a long visa, and not to have dates cut short (like our Tajikistan application), we opted to books hostels for 7 to 8 day stretches. We printed out the confirmation of booking email and placed one copy for each hotel in with our application.

Step 2 - The Application Form

The next step is to head on over to the Kazakhstan Embassy website and download the application form. This gives you a pdf document that you can fill in/convert if you have the software. I'm sure you can fill it in digitally, but I hand wrote mine to avoid messing up the formatting.

Above is my completed application form (with all my personal stuff crossed out). For our temporary address we just used our first hotel booking. We ignored (and left blank) section 24 about transit, I figured it wasn't relevant!

Step 3 - The Cover Letter

There are a couple of requirements for this cover letter, you need to include:
  • Why you are travelling to Kazakhstan.
  • Your itinerary for Kazakhstan (we did this day-by-day).
  • The name of a hostel or hotel you will stay at (we booked these).
We also added a blurb about what we were doing and where we were going. Often with these kind of things it is better to give a little bit more information, for example we mentioned our jobs. We also signed this letter, just to make it seem a bit more official. Below is the letter we sent (with various personal stuff removed).

Step 4 - Sundries

Make sure you have a passport sized photo (45x35 mm) available and paper clip this to the application form. Make sure you have photocopied the main page of your passport. You also need to include a copy of your travel insurance certificate. This doesn't need to specifically mention Kazakhstan, and we actually 'created' our certificate as my policy is through my bank and they don't actually issue you with a certificate. For this visa we also sent a copy of our Mongol Rally registration, mainly because we had a spare copy.

We used the confirmation email that we received when we signed up. If you are applying for several people at once then it is a good idea to place the application forms and photocopies for each person in a separate plastic wallet.

Step 5 - Payment and Postage

You need to send a special delivery self addressed envelope with the application (so they can send your passports back), we also sent our application by special delivery. The embassy fee is paid by cheque (you can also pay by postal order, but this incurs an admin fee), made payable to "The Embassy of Kazakhstan".

Place all these items in a large envelope and post it off down to the embassy in London (we sent it special delivery). In total, for two visas, it cost us £84.30. Below is the full breakdown of costs:
  • £70 payed by cheque to the embassy (for 2 tourist visas).
  • £7.15 special delivery to send your passports and documents.
  • £7.15 special delivery to have your passports sent back.

Step 6 - Sit Back and Wait

One week later we got our passports back with our shiny new visa sticker. 

If this guide has been helpful (and saved you many many pounds compared with using a visa service), and you would like to say thank you then feel free to donate a couple of quid to our charity, Anthony Nolan, through our Just Giving link.

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