Astana's economy centers are around trade, communications, construction and industrial production. Leading industrial products are building materials and foodstuffs. Mechanical engineering is also a major source of economic activity. Many state-owned corporations have their headquarters in the city, but there is also an attempt to help small and medium-sized business flourish. A New City Special Economic Zone has been established to make Astana attractive to investors. The plan is to commission five projects worth over 1 million USD, including a plant for production of diesel engines, a furniture factory and a business center.
As of 2013, Kazakhstan's GDP was 231.9 billion USD and the GDP per capita was 13,609 USD. Astana, however, enjoys much higher earnings than most other parts of the country.
The demand for English teachers is increasing, and they can expect to earn from 400 USD to 1500 USD depending on qualifications. Masters degrees attract better jobs. An English teacher's package usually includes accommodation, although this may be shared.
Most Western expats working in Astana are highly skilled professionals.
The process for obtaining a work permit is quite expensive and complicated. Most expats working and living in Astana are on Category 3 Work Permits for skilled workers, which are issued on a 12 month basis. With these visas, employers sponsor approved skilled foreign workers, after proving that there is nobody from the local population who can do the job. They must advertise in local job centers, which can take around a month, after which they can lodge a work permit application.
The foreign national must provide evidence of their professional credentials and education, and will take a medical which includes screening for HIV. After this, they can submit a request for a visa invitation letter, and their prospective company will lodge a work permit application to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. This has a further one month's processing time. If approved, the foreign worker can apply for an invitation letter from Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then apply for the actual work visa while still in their own country, at the Kazakhstan embassy. This totals an additional two months' processing time.
Once they eventually reach Kazakhstan, the employee must obtain a registration certificate from a local police office. They will need to take their migration card with them, which they should have received at the airport on landing.
For residents of Kazakhstan, including expats working in Astana on Category 3 work permits, the income tax rate is 10%. For non-residents it is 15%. Expats looking to work in Astana are advised to check if their own country has a double taxation treaty with Kazakhstan (a number of Western countries do have such an arrangement). This ensures that expats are not taxed twice on their income (once at home, once in Kazakhstan) whilst they reside in the country.