Uzbekistan abolishes exit visa system

TASHKENT (TCA) — Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has signed a decree that will allow Uzbek citizens to travel abroad without permission from the state as of January 1, 2019.

The president’s decree, “On drastic measures to improve the procedure of travel of Uzbekistan citizens abroad,” was published by state media outlets on August 16.

The decree orders the introduction of biometric passports and the abolition of the exit visa requirement.

The decree says the new rules for foreign travel are designed to “rule out bureaucratic hurdles and instances of corruption” linked to the system under which Uzbeks must seek government approval to leave the country, RFE/RL reported.

A draft decree posted on a government website in January included a clause scrapping the long-standing exit-visa requirement, but officials at the time suggested the change was not imminent.

The system inherited from the Soviet era has been a major barrier for Uzbeks seeking to leave the country, and a source of illegal income for officials who expedite the process in exchange for bribes.

Many people in the Central Asian country of some 30 million travel to Russia to find work and send remittances home.

Mirziyoyev has taken steps to decrease Uzbekistan’s isolation since he came to power in September 2016, after the death of autocratic longtime leader Islam Karimov.

Sergey Kwan