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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.
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.
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