Almaty is an economic powerhouse in Kazakhstan, generating 20% of the country's GDP (equating to 36 billion USD in 2010). It is also an important business hub for the wider region, and is considered to be a Beta-Global City in recognition of the significant role it plays in global economics.
Finance is one of the biggest industries in Almaty and it has considerable financial exports. The largest bank in Central Asia, the BTA bank, is located in the city. The Kazakhstan Stock Exchange is also based in Almaty. The 'Almaty Financial District and Esentai Park', designed by the architect who designed Time Warner Center in New York and Tokyo Midtown, is currently under construction. Esentai Tower is a 37 floor building in the park housing offices of companies such as HSBC, Ernst & Young, and Credit Suisse.
The media industry is growing rapidly in Almaty, and major broadcasting channels and several national newspapers are based in the city. Services industries are also succeeding and the first Ritz-Carlton hotel in the country recently opened.
The economy the Almaty region is forecast to increase at nearly 6% per year until 2020.
The process of obtaining a work permit is complex, filled with red tape and quite expensive.
The most common visa category for employment on a temporary basis, usually for 12 months, is the Category 3 Work Permit for skilled workers. It enables employers to sponsor approved skilled migrants. A Kazakh company wanting to sponsor a foreign employer must prove there is no one available from the local labor force do the job, even advertising in local job centers, which can take around a month before they are permitted to lodge a work permit application.
The foreign national needs to have evidence of their professional and educational credentials, and will need to undergo medical screening to test for HIV. They can then submit a request for a visa invitation letter. The sponsoring company will submit a work permit application to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. The processing time should be a further one month. Once the work permit is approved, the foreign worker must apply for an invitation letter from Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then apply for the actual work visa at the Kazakhstan embassy in their own country. This takes a further two months.
After finally arriving in Kazakhstan, the employee will need to get a registration certificate from a local police office, taking with them the migration card they were provided with at the airport on entry to the country.
The personal income tax rate is 10% for both residents and non-residents: expats must pay taxes as residents when legally residing in the country for at least 183 continuous days in one fiscal year.
Income taxes are levied on non-residents’ income with source in Kazakhstan or on worldwide residents’ income. In particular, taxes are due on employment income, capital gains, investments, self-employment and business income. . Some allowances are granted for example to families. Around 40 countries have double taxation agreements with Kazakhstan, but expats wishing to work in Almaty should check the details of their own country's double taxation status.
Social security contributions are 19.5% on gross salary: the employer’s share is 12.75% and the employee’s rate is 6.75%.