Turkmenistan’s Banks Slash Western Union Transfer Limit

Since March 1 it has been impossible to send more than 200 U.S. dollars a month out of Turkmenistan via Western Union, sources told turkmen.news in Ashgabat. Before the introduction of the new limit, the maximum transfer sum was $480. It is Turkmen banks that have introduced the restrictions, but the reasons have yet to be reported.

The main users of the money transfer system are the parents of students studying abroad. In order to make a transfer to their son or daughter, parents have to acquire a special token in the bank for a specific date, but often they cannot send money for a month or more after getting the token. In addition, parents have to present a whole wad of documents to the bank, including confirmation of place of study and residence, confirmation of employment and various other papers.

Western Union is the only instant money transfer system in Turkmenistan

Students in Ukraine and Belarus told turkmen.news that the sum for conversion via Visa cards has not changed – it remains $500 a month, but it is not possible to withdraw this sum in full, as ATMs abroad often refuse to carry out transactions, suggesting clients contact their national banks.

“Terminals in Belarus won’t give out 30 roubles or 15, though the month has only just started and the limit hasn’t been reached yet,”

a Turkmen student in Gomel, Belarus, said on January 4.

Independent publications reported previously about unreasonable restrictions on money transfers via Western Union in different regions. Residents of Dashoguz in northern Turkmenistan could transfer no more than 150 dollars a month, whereas residents in the capital could transfer 480 dollars, as mentioned above.

There have been two exchange rates operating in Turkmenistan for several years now: the state rate (which has remained unchanged since 2015 at 3.5 manats per dollar) and the market rate (around 18 manats per dollar).

Limited categories of the population are able to convert manats to dollars according to the official rate: students studying abroad; patients travelling abroad for medical treatment on the recommendation of local doctors; and entrepreneurs importing foodstuffs. Besides, the authorities regularly reduce the sums for conversion, while entrepreneurs are allowed to exchange no more than 2% of the value of their contract anyway.

Students abroad think the government of Turkmenistan could reach agreement with the authorities of their host countries to allow part time work on a student visa. The majority of Turkmen students study at higher education institutions in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.