Uzbekistan plans to abolish exit visas for its citizens

TASHKENT (TCA) — Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyaev has proposed a plan to abolish long-standing rules requiring Uzbek citizens to obtain government permission if they want to travel abroad, RFE/RL reports.

A draft of a presidential decree posted on a government website includes, among other things, a clause under which exit visas would be abolished.

The draft indicated that the decision to scrap exit visas would come in the third quarter of 2017 — July-September — but it was unclear when the policy would actually be implemented.

The exit-visa system inherited from the Soviet era has been a tremendous barrier for Uzbeks seeking to leave the country for any reason as it requires regular renewal, costs money, and involves lengthy bureaucratic procedures to obtain.

Uzbekistan is the only former Soviet republic that still requires exit visas.

Mirziyaev’s plan to abolish exit visas is one of a number of initiatives that appears to be aimed to open up the tightly controlled Central Asian country following his election after the death of longtime autocrat Islam Karimov last September.

It was earlier reported that Mirziyaev first approved and later postponed by four years, until 1 January 2021, a plan to introduce visa-free travel in Uzbekistan for citizens of 27 countries.

The president’s decree signed late in December delays the plan, initially approved by Mirziyaev on December 2, that would have introduced visa-free travel on April 1, 2017.

The decree says the postponement was proposed by the State Tourism Committee, the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry’s State Customs Committee, and other ministries “in order to provide steady and balanced development of tourism activities” and to “secure safety for lives and health of foreign tourists and citizens of Uzbekistan.”

Under the plan, tourists would be allowed to visit Uzbekistan for up to 30 days without a visa if they are citizens of 15 countries including Australia, Austria, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Italy, Canada, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, South Korea, Singapore, Finland, Switzerland, and Japan.

Tourists over the age of 55 also would be allowed to visit Uzbekistan without a visa for up to 30 days if they are citizens of the United States, Belgium, France, Poland, Hungary, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, or Israel.

Sergey Kwan

TCA

Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
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Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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