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Let me begin with the question, how does one deal with a rogue immigration agent in a foreign country? By rogue I mean one who is ignorant of the immigration requirements or one who willfully disregards it.

Here's the longer version.

I'm reproducing a friends post from Facebook that I saw earlier today -

This article is to bring to notice my horrific traveling experience with the #airastana airlines which is a nightmare for any traveller and the hostile attitude of the airlines crew. Little did we know while booking the tickets that apart from cheaper rates #airastana provided cheapest and worst customer services as well. Me along with my friend had booked a flight from AMSTERDAM to DELHI on 10th July 2016 through the official website of the airlines. The airlines gave us a connecting flight through one of their local airports. To our horror, on our landing at their airport in Kazakhastan, we were told that there is no transfer section in the airport and we needed a visa to take our next flight to New Delhi, which of we did not have. On calling for the airlines staff for help, they straight away told us that it is passenger's fault. One crew even said to the extent that it is your fault that you chose to travel with #airastana . Our nightmare did not end there, we were told that we will be deported back to Amsterdam and for the flight of 5 hours, we were charged 1044 dollars per person. The flight was next morning and night we had to spend in their customs official's barracks. There was no wifi in airport and no one could speak english at the airport. Despite repeated requests no airline official turned up for help. Of course we missed our flights to India from Kazakatan for which no compensation was made though we had boarding passes for the flight. We managed to reach Amsterdam airport and had to book fresh flights for India at almost twice the price for the same day as our Schengyen Visa was expiring on the same day. Also on doing some google research, we found out that there had been number of cases earlier as well in which passengers had faced the same issue.

  1. Why didn't the airlines make any mention in the booking confirmation that a transit visa will be required for the flight.?

  2. Why does the airline have international flights through an airport which does not have any transfers section?

Based on my perusing this website, I immediately realized that my friend hadn't done their due diligence and booked the cheapest flight without ascertaining the necessary visa requirements(which was indeed the case) and told him how to use Timatic.

But when I keyed in the itinerary into Timatic, it does turn out that he didn't need a transit visa as his flight out was within 24 hours.

Kazakhstan - Transit Visa

Visa required.

Transiting without a visa is possible for: Holders of onward tickets for a max. transit time of 24 hours.

I used United's Portal, but I suspect that the results will be the same regardless. If someone wants to check for themselves, the Destination is India, the Departure is from the Netherlands and there is a connection in Kazakhstan. The traveller holds an ordinary Indian passport and doesn't have a return ticket out of India.

Caravanistan's article on this also has a paragraph in the end which says this about Khazak transit visa on arrival -

However, we learn from our comments section that things are not quite that simple, and that at least in Almaty, a grumpy immigration officer might keep you from seeing the city. You are warned.

So my question is how should one handle situations like these, when they are in the right and the immigration official either doesn't know the rules or chooses to ignore them.

  • But did they have a visa for India? – WGroleau Jul 12 '17 at 3:33
  • Timatic is not a legal system, it doesn't bind a destination to anything - check the immigration laws of that country to ensure that the transit-without-a-visa exception is actually valid. – Moo Jul 12 '17 at 3:37
  • They're Indian citizens with Indian passports, they didn't need a visa. – nikhil Jul 12 '17 at 3:37
  • @Moo here's the airlines guidelines on transit visas - airastana.com/ind/Information/Travel-to-Kazakhstan/… It appears to suggest that one can be procured on arrival – nikhil Jul 12 '17 at 3:44
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    @nikhil I am reading that - it doesnt actually say one can be procured on arrival, but it can be read that way. The Kazakhstan consular website also doesnt have any mention of a transit visa being issuable on arrival, but does offer a form for you to apply for one prior to travel. – Moo Jul 12 '17 at 3:46
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From the Air Astana website:

Transit visas are not required for those transiting through the same terminal, but necessary for those transferring to another terminal if no transfer zone is provided. Transit visas are issued upon provision of a visa valid to enter the country of destination and relevant tickets with confirmation of departure date from the transfer point on the territory of Kazakhstan, no later than 5 days from the moment of arrival to the port or station in Kazakhstan.

This could be read in such a way that indicates you will be issued a visa on arrival, but it also doesn't actually state that. Further down the page:

  1. Application for an entry visa should be made to the Kazakhstan diplomatic or consular office in the country of your residence. You can find a list of all Kazakhstan diplomatic offices in the Travel Information/Diplomatic Missions section of this website.

That, to me, is pretty clear - Air Astana says you should apply for an entry visa in advance.

The Kazakhstan embassy website also has no mention of a transit visa being issuable on arrival, it simply has a form for you to apply in advance.

Indian citizens are not a visa-free traveller to Kazakhstan, while other countries do enjoy visa-free entry - this may complicate matters and it may have been confused for a transit visa in some cases.

Other websites suggest that Indian citizens need to obtain a transit visa in advance:

A valid passport and visa are required to transit through Kazakhstan.

I would suggest that in this case, Timatic is not accurate and the situation with regard to transit visas on arrival into Kazakhstan isn't as clear cut as it might otherwise be.

Given that even caravanistan.com suggests that you need a correctly sized passport photo and letter of invitation even for a transit visa, that to me suggests that visa-on-arrival is probably not accurate given that most people won't be carrying either of those around with them randomly...

In answer to the actual question asked, and not the underlying situation...

You write a letter of complaint to the Department for Visas and Registration under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and inform them what happened.

Don't expect any compensation or even a response however...

In a comment, the question asker asked about the costs of flying the inadmissible person out of the country

Under ICAO rules, updated in 2015, the aircraft operator can recover costs involved in the transportation:

5.10 When a person is found inadmissible and is returned to the aircraft operator for transport away from the territory of the State, the aircraft operator shall not be precluded from recovering from such person any transportation costs involved in his removal.

What that actually boils down to is up to the lawyers - can the airline charge you the most expensive ticket for the seat you occupy? That is currently untested law.

  • Great answer @Moo, in such a case would you pay the airlines whatever they ask to take you back to the point of origin? Are there any consequences of declining that except for being blacklisted by them for future flights. – nikhil Jul 12 '17 at 4:11
  • @nikhil the carrying airline is allowed under international law to recover the cost of transport in the event they are required to return a traveller to their last departure point. "Cost of transport" is not the same as a ticket however, which is a point which can be disputed... – Moo Jul 12 '17 at 4:12
  • @nikhil declining to pay the airline means it becomes an unpaid debt, with the same nuances and considerations of any other unpaid debt. – Moo Jul 12 '17 at 4:13

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