Uzbekistan says visa change to make it easier to leave country

ALMATY (Reuters) - Uzbekistan, one of the most tightly controlled ex-Soviet republics, plans to abandon a requirement for all Uzbeks to seek permission from the authorities to leave the country, the Central Asian nation’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The abolition of the exit visa system inherited from the Soviet Union is one of a number of changes being brought in since Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power last year, following the death of strongman leader Islam Karimov.

Millions of Uzbeks are migrant laborers, working mostly in Russia, and the new reform would make it easier for them to travel.

A presidential decree has already been drafted and is being reviewed by government agencies, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Another important reform involves changes to the foreign exchange system, which are being rolled out gradually.

Officials also say they are considering allowing visa-free travel for tourists from 15 developed nations, though the scheme has been put back from this year to 2021.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Bolton