In line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision of improving tourism and business, Pakistan recently announced five-year visa for American businessmen and tourists. The Foreign Office hopes that the move would be reciprocated by the United States. In March this year, the US reduced visa validity for Pakistanis from five years to 12 months. Moreover, an additional fee was levied on H (Temporary Work Visa), I (Journalist and Media Visa), L (intercompany Transfer Visa), and R (Religious Worker Visa), according to a statement issued by the US Embassy in Islamabad. The State Department had taken the decision “because Pakistan was unable to liberalise its visa regime for certain visa categories, (so) the US was required by US law on Jan 21 to reduce the visa validity and increase the visa fees to match Pakistan’s practices for similar visa categories.” It noted discrepancies between the US visa regimes and those of many countries, including Pakistan, during a recent worldwide review.
The statement issued by the US Embassy had not specified anything about the B1 and B2 visas, which remain valid for five years. According to press reports, the State Department had turned down more than 37,000 visa applications in 2018 due to President Donald Trump’s travel ban, up from less than 1,000 the year before when the ban had not fully taken effect. The US has also announced suspension of tax exemptions enjoyed by Pakistani diplomats in the US due to disputes with Islamabad. The State Department said it withdrew tax exemptions for Pakistani diplomats and their dependants as of May 15, citing pending tax issues faced by US diplomats in Pakistan. “We hope to restore the tax privileges soon,” it said. We also hope the US responds to the latest move by Pakistan in a positive manner.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2019.