Kyrgyzstan has introduced new migration rules for visiting foreign citizens that limit unregistered stays in the country from 60 to five days.
The rule is intended to combat illegal migration, although there are concerns that it could harm the country’s fledging tourism sector.
The law, which was proposed by the Interior Ministry in May and received backing from parliament, will come into force on November 4.
Almost all foreigners will be required to register within five days or face a $145 fine. The only country exempt from the rule is Russia, which has signed a bilateral agreement with Kyrgyzstan requiring its citizens to register only for stays longer than 30 days.
It is not yet clear that the government departments responsible for registering foreigners are even going to be able to cope with the sudden increase in foreigners requiring registration given that they already struggle to cope with large amounts of Kyrgyz citizens applying for passports, birth certificates and other local documents.
And of course, there is also serious concern this new situation will simply give rise to more corruption, since many might prefer to part with cash instead dealing with inefficient Kyrgyz bureaucracy.
An explanatory note with the newly adopted regulation explains that the move was prompted by anxieties over illegal migration.
“Foreign citizens open various private companies, joint ventures and other organizations, and bring in their compatriots, violating established procedures,” the note reads. “Foreign citizens working in the republic mostly do so without work permits, therefore they are violating the migration laws of the Kyrgyz Republic.”
This is a fairly transparent reference to Chinese migrants, since they account for by far the largest amount of foreign laborers coming to Kyrgyzstan. Another recent initiative to staunch the flow of migrants came in the form of a Kyrgyz language test for foreign laborers.
RFE/RL’S Kyrgyz service has reported the government this year allocated 13,000 work permits for foreign citizens and that 85 percent of that number has been claimed by Chinese citizens. According to migration authorities, around 28,000 Chinese citizens were registered as living in Kyrgyzstan in 2014, although they believe the real number may in fact be as high as 40,000.
The patently tourist-unfriendly measure is particularly perplexing in light of the many millions of dollars Kyrgyzstan has spent on trying to boost visitor numbers through high-profile events like the recent Nomad Games.