New visa policy unveiled: Missions in 175 states allowed to issue visas

The new visa policy announced here Friday allows Pakistan’s missions in 175 countries to grant visas. It also envisages promotion of travel and tourism between Pakistan and India.

“Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has approved the new visa policy, which contains substantial changes in the existing policy with a view to make Pakistan a tourist, trade, business and investor friendly country,” Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao told a press conference Friday. Federal Minister for Tourism Nilofar Bakhtiar and federal interior and information secretaries were present on the occasion.

Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said in the new visa policy, special care has been taken to promote travel and tourism with India to supplement the confidence building measures (CBMs) between the two countries. “Previously, only three-month visa was allowed and now its duration has been enhanced up to two years for civil society activists, widows and divorcees,” he said.

The minister said that some changes in the Pakistan’s policy with regard to Indian citizens does not mean change in the Kashmir policy, rather these are aimed at CBMs. He said the new visa policy was in line with the government’s overall policy of liberalisation and openness. “We are confident these measures will encourage foreign investment, promote tourism, generate employment and help the country economically,” he said.

Announcing decisions approved by the prime minister in the new visa policy, the interior minister said that the List A has been expanded from 48 to 175 by adding 127 countries to it. “Pakistan’s missions in these countries can now grant various types of entry visa to foreign tourists.”

Sherpao said the tourist-friendly countries have been increased from two to 23 for grant of visa on arrival to groups of tourists through designated tour operators in Pakistan. He said the Business Visa List has been expanded from 48 to 69 countries for grant of visa on arrival on production of recommendation letter from chamber of commerce and industry of respective countries or invitation letter from business organisation or recommendation by honorary investment counsellor of the Board of Investment (BOI). Pakistani missions abroad would grant five-year business visa with multiple entries to investors and businessmen of the 69 countries within 24 hours after production of any of these documents, he said.

However, the minister said, the conversion of business visa into work visa has been discontinued. He said that Pakistan’s missions abroad would grant work visa to the expatriates up to five years instead of previously allowed three years while the BOI would process work visa applications within four weeks. He said the foreigners of Pakistani origin and their foreign spouses would be granted five-year multiple entry visa with duration of one-year stay, extendable in Pakistan on yearly basis.

In the category of journalists, Pakistani missions abroad have been authorised to grant visa to foreign journalists for duration of their assignment in the shortest possible time on their own. He said the Pakistani missions abroad have not been authorised to issue visas to students intending to study in religious schools.

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