The news that India and Pakistan are set to issue, for the first time in their histories, tourist visas to each other’s citizens has been widely welcomed, along with reports that they also plan ease visa conditions for those whose spouses are from the other country, and issue visas on arrival at Wagah-Attari for senior citizens and young children.
These groundbreaking relaxations in visa rules are expected to be finalised during the Home Secretaries’ meeting in Islamabad on May 24 and May 25, between India’s R. K. Singh and his Pakistani counterpart K. M. Siddique Akbar. The new visa rules may come into force in August, following the meeting between Indian External Affairs minister S. M. Krishna with Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar in the third week of July.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the liberalised bilateral visa agreement, negotiated by a joint working group from both sides, will allow non-extendable 30-day “Group tourist visas” to be issued to groups of 10-50 individuals, for tours organised by an approved operator or travel agent. The operator will have to submit a detailed itinerary, and will be responsible for reporting to police for the group. Groups of school and college students can visit each other’s country on the group tourist visa. Families of individuals married to a national of the other country will be eligible for two-year, multiple entry visas. One person will be able to report to police on behalf of the entire family.
The new visa protocol also eases travel for businessmen. ‘Category A’ businessmen, with an annual turnover of Pakistan rupees 5 million or more will get a one-year multiple-entry visa, and will be able to travel to 10 places. ‘Category B’ businessmen, with an annual turnover of half a million Pakistan rupees will be eligible for a one-year visa with up to four entries, and can travel to five places. Businessmen will not have to go to the police station to report their presence; they can send a representative.
Visa-on-arrival for senior citizens (65 years and above), which both countries had agreed upon some years ago, will now be implemented. This facility will also be available to young children (12 years and below). They will be given a visa for 45 days. Holders of this category of visa will be exempt from reporting to police.
The number of cities that a normal visitor can go to is being increased from the existing three to five. The current entry-exit point restrictions that limit entry and exit to the same point will be relaxed to allow entry and exit through any point.
Visiting or transit visa fees, currently Rs 15 for both sides, will be increased to Pakistan rupees 200 (Rs 120 in Indian currency, at the current exchange rate).
Liberalised visa regime on the cards - thenews.com.pk