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Uzbekistan Scraps Exit Visas

End of travel controls is latest milestone in country’s emergence from despotism.

8 January 2019

Citizens of Uzbekistan are now free to leave the country without obtaining the infamous exit visa.

 

Uzbekistan was the last former Soviet country still to control its citizens’ movements abroad through the exit visa system, The Diplomat writes.

 

A decree signed by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in 2017 ordered the end of the exit visa system, to be replaced by biometric passports. The decree came into effect on 1 January. Until then, Uzbeks wishing to travel outside the Commonwealth of Independent States had to obtain the visa from the Interior Ministry.

 

Image from the Uzbek-Tajik border. TOL archive.

 

Critics had long argued for abolishing a system they said was “regularly used against dissidents and independent journalists,” Eurasianet.org wrote in August.

 

“Mirziyoyev has been on the receiving end of pleas to scrap the exit visa ever since he took over the reins of power, following the death of Islam Karimov. The change of policy appears like a recognition of the drumbeat of public pressure,” Eurasianet adds.

 

Citizens can now apply for biometric passports valid for 10 years. Existing passports will apparently retain their validity through 2021, according to The Diplomat.

 

Mirziyoyev’s 2017 decree stated that the new travel rules were designed to "rule out bureaucratic hurdles and instances of corruption," RFE/RL reported.

 

 

  • Uzbekistan is also making it easier for foreigners to visit. As of 1 February, visa requirements will be dropped for citizens of 45 countries, as authorities step up a drive to boost tourism to the country’s historic cities and Silk Road sites.

 

  • Tourist numbers have doubled since the introduction of e-visas last year, reaching 5.3 million, The Independent reports.

 

  • With another decree meant to secure unmarried couples' "right to a private life," Mirziyoyev has also changed the rules to allow unmarried couples to share rooms in hotels, RFE says.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer
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