KAZAKHSTAN: Changes to Work Permits and Visa Waiver Program

January 11, 2017

Upcoming Changes to the Work Permit Regime

From 1st January 2017, new rules for the issuance of work permits for Kazakhstan include the removal of the current labour market test for locally-hired applicants and the introduction of a state fee, among other changes.

An announced change to the exemption list, whereby category 1 employees (directors and executives) employed as heads of branches and representative offices of foreign entities in Kazakhstan would no longer be exempt from having to obtain a work permit, has been cancelled.

Key Changes

The changes to the work permit rules from 1st January 2017 include the following:

  • The Kazakh employer will no longer need to apply to the Regional Department of Labour and Social Protection to verify whether there are specialists for this position on the local market, except for intra-company transfers.
  • The Kazakh employer will no longer need to arrange a bank guarantee and deposit to cover the cost of repatriation.
  • The Kazakh employer will no longer be required to carry out one of the “special conditions” (i.e. training or creating additional jobs for Kazakh nationals.
  • Category 1 employees (e.g. directors, managers, heads of branches, etc.) will be able to apply an unlimited number of times to renew their work permit for another year.
  • Category 2 and 3 employees (e.g. specialists and highly-qualified personnel) will be able to apply three times (rather than twice as currently) to renew their work permit for another year.
  • The three-year maximum term for ICT Work Permit holders remains in place, and a new cap of one permissible extension for up to an additional three years is introduced.
  • Applicants for a work permit in the intra-company transfer category must pass an elementary-level Kazakh language exam.
  • The Kazakh employer of an intra-company transferee will need to advertise the position for thirty days prior to submission of the required documents.
  • Nationals of the Eurasian Economic Union (i.e. Russia, Belorussia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan) will be counted as Kazakh nationals for the purposes of the calculation of the ratio of local to foreign employees.
  • New government fees for work permit issuance and extension will be introduced. The fee amount will vary depending on the type of economic activity of the employer and the category of the foreign national employee.
  • The labour authorities will have seven business days (rather than fifteen as currently) to decide to issue or refuse a work permit.

Our advice

Companies hiring foreign nationals in Kazakhstan should plan for the new state fees and streamlined application process from 1st January 2017.

Employers intending to send employees to Kazakhstan on an intra-company transfer basis should bear in mind the new requirements for local job advertisement and language skills.

New Visa Waiver Program Covers 20 More Countries and Longer Stays

From 1st January 2017, nationals of 39 countries (up from 19) will be able to enter, leave and transit through Kazakhstan without a visa, and stay for up to 30 days (up from 15 days) for business, tourism or private trips.

Who Does This Apply To?

The visa waiver will be extended to nationals of:

  • Austria
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Latvia
  • Luxembourg
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Turkey

Currently, the visa waiver applies to nationals of only 19 countries:

  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States

It should be noted that nationals of these 39 countries travelling to Kazakhstan for work purposes will still require work visas.

For further information on any of the points discussed in this article, or for advice on Kazakhstani immigration in general, please contact us at [email protected]