Pakistan, India ease visa curbs
09 September, 2012
ISLAMABAD: Replacing a 38-year-old restrictive visa regime, Pakistan and India on Saturday signed the much-awaited liberalised visa agreement to ease restrictions on visitors from both the countries and to ensure time-bound visa approvals and boost trade.
The new visa agreement will facilitate multiple-entry and police reporting-free visas for businessmen, allowing them to visit five cities instead of three. It will also introduce for the first time group tourist, pilgrim visas and visa on arrival for those over 65 years of age. Business visa has been separated from visitor's visa.
The new pact was signed between Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna at the Interior Ministry. The new visa agreement was supposed to be signed in May during the home/interior secretary-level talks held in Islamabad but got postponed after Pakistan wanted to sign it at political level. The old visa regime was signed in 1974.
Under the new agreement, diplomatic visa (Category-I) will be issued within a period not exceeding 30 days of application. The visa will be valid for the place and duration of assignment and special permission shall be sought for visiting other places. Diplomatic visa (Category-II) will be granted to high-ranking dignitaries holding diplomatic passports and there will be no special mention of the visit.
Non-diplomatic visa will be issued within a period not exceeding 45 days of application. Earlier, there was no timeframe for issuance of these visas.
Official visa will be valid for 15 days instead of one-month validity as is the case at present.
Single entry visa will be issued to visitors for a maximum period of six months but stay not to exceed three months at a time and for five places which was currently limited to three places. Visitor visa (Category-II) has also been introduced in the new pact according to which a visitor visa for a maximum five specified places may be issued for a longer period up to two years with multiple entries to senior citizens (those above 65 years of age), spouse of a national of one country married to person of another country and children below 12 years of age accompanying parent(s).
Transit visa will be issued for 36 hours instead of 72 hours as is the case at present.
Under the new pact, the group tourist visa will be issued for not less than 10 people and not more than 50 people. This visa will be valid for 30 days and will have to be organised through tour operators, registered by the two governments. The tour operator will be responsible for police reporting on behalf of the group. The group tourist visa facility will also be available to students of educational institutions of both countries. However, this will be a tourist visa only and not for seeking admission in educational institutions of either country.
There are two categories for business visa. Businessmen with an income of PKR 500,000 or equivalent per annum or annual turnover/gross sale of PKR 3 million or equivalent will be given one-year business visa, with five places for up to four entries. Under Category-II, businessmen with an income of at least PKR 5 million or equivalent per annum or turnover of PKR 30 million or equivalent per annum will be given one year multiple entry business visas for up to 10 places, with exemption from police reporting. The visa shall specify that the period of stay of the businessman at a time shall not exceed 30 days. The maximum time taken in processing of a business visa will not exceed more than five weeks.
Pilgrim visas will be issued to those intending to visit religious shrines as per the 1974 protocol on visits to religious shrines, or any future revision to the protocol. Such visas will need to be applied at least 45 days before the commencement of the intended tour. The visas will be issued at least 10 days before the commencement of travel. These visas will be issued for a single entry, restricted to 15 days validity and would be non-extendable.
Under the new pact, persons of more than 65 years of age will be given visa on arrival at Attari and Wagah checkposts for 45 days. This visa will be non-extendable and non-convertible. Earlier, people had to enter and exit through the same route and use same mode of travel for onward and return journey. Exemptions were made on case-to-case basis.
However, under the new agreement, people can enter and exit from different checkposts and change in mode of travel will also be permitted. But this is subject to the exception that Exit from Wagah/Attari, by road (on foot) cannot be accepted, unless the entry was also by foot via Attari/Wagah. The checkpoints for those travelling by air from Pakistani side have been changed. Earlier, one could fly in at Mumbai, Delhi and Amritsar. Under the new pact, one can now fly in to Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. Pakistani checkpoints remain the same with Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
Under the new pact, registration is must within 24 hours. Persons of more than 65 years of age, children below 12 years of age and eminent businessmen are exempted from police reporting (EPR). Bona fide businessmen, not in EPR category, may depute their authorised representatives for reporting.
The applicant must avail the visa within a period of 90 days from the date of issue. If there are grounds requiring extension of validity, the mission concerned will take a decision on such request on priority. However, this provision will not be applicable to the holders of business visa, said the new visa regime.