Customs declaration forms don’t need to be filled on entering the country unless you're carrying goods above normal duty-free limits. Up to US$3000 cash in any currency can be taken in or out of the country without a written declaration.
Citizens of 45 countries, including EU states, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, the USA and some other countries can travel to Kazakhstan without a visa for up to 30 days until the end of 2017; it remains to be seen whether this arrangement is extended.
For most other visas you must obtain a letter of invitation (LOI) before applying, available through most travel agencies in Kazakhstan and Central Asia travel specialists in other countries.
Registration is required if you are staying in Kazakhstan more than five days – only if you enter by land or sea and your entry form is stamped once rather than twice. If it's stamped twice, you don't need to register. It is not necessary to register if you enter by air.
Special permits are needed to visit areas close to the Chinese border and are only available through tour firms taking you to these areas. Processing can take up to 45 days.
Extending a Kazakh visa is generally only possible with a medical certificate stating you are unable to travel.
Kazakhstan visa rules and practices change quite frequently; information on recent changes is available from recommended travel agents and the websites of Kazakhstan embassies and consulates.
Citizens of 45 countries may travel visa-free for 30 days. These are EU states, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, Switzerland, South Korea, the UAE and the US. Likewise, no visa is needed for visits up to 14 days for Hong Kong citizens, 30 days for Turkish citizens, or 90 days for CIS or Georgian citizens.
For other visas, or if you are not from one of the visa-free states, you must obtain ‘visa support’ in the form of a letter of invitation (LOI). This is available, usually by email, through most travel agencies in Kazakhstan, Central Asia travel specialists in other countries, or Kazakh businesses. You'll need to submit a copy of the LOI in your visa application to the embassy or consulate. Agents’ fees for providing LOIs normally range from around US$30 to US$100 depending on the visa required. LOIs must be applied for at least two weeks before the date of your first entry into Kazakhstan, and you should allow one to two weeks to obtain the LOI before you apply for the visa itself (but note that LOIs cannot normally be issued more than two months before your arrival in Kazakhstan).
Single-entry tourist or business visas on arrival for a stay of up to 30 days can be obtained only by nationals arriving from a country without a Kazakh diplomatic mission. The fee is approximately US$80, and you must hold a LOI. The visa on arrival is available at the airports of Aqtau, Almaty, Astana, Atyrau and Uralsk. If you request a LOI from a travel agency for this purpose, tell them why: not all agencies can provide LOIs suitable for visas on arrival. Also check with the agency about any other paperwork you must provide on arrival and about currently acceptable means of payment: you may be required to pay in cash US dollars or tenge.
The maximum length of a tourist visa is 90 days (triple entry with three visits of a maximum 30 days each). It is no longer possible to get either a business or tourist visa for more than 30 days in Kazakhstan at a time.
Fees for the visa itself depend on the type of visa and your nationality, and with the on-arrival visas – on the mood of the immigration officer. A single-entry, one-month tourist visa is normally US$45 to US$100 (but US$160 for US citizens). Some consulates will deal with visa applications by mail; others, including most in Asia, require you to apply for and collect your visa in person. Processing time at consulates in the West is normally two to five working days.
As of 2017, visitors may only apply for a Kazakhstan visa in their country of residence (unless their country does not have a Kazakh consulate). If you are in a country without a Kazakh embassy or consulate (such as Australia, Ireland, New Zealand or Sweden), you can apply to Kazakh missions in other countries; those in Brussels and Vienna are among the more efficient and less expensive in Europe.
Overstaying your visa, even by a single day, carries the penalty of US$5000 or 20 days in jail – your choice!