Cabinet members have stressed on the need to issue on-arrival business visas to heads of Fortune 500 companies to attract investment in Pakistan.
Sources told the Express Tribune that the issue of delay in issuing visas to foreigners was taken up in a meeting of cabinet held last week, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
During the meeting, the cabinet members urged that foreign businessmen be facilitated through the granting of immediate visas, said sources. The members suggested that the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the Fortune 500 companies should be given immediate business visas on-arrival.
A cabinet member expressed concern during the meeting saying that despite the introduction of the POVS, the issuance of business visas was marred by delays. The secretary for the interior division, however, responded that Pakistan’s missions in 97 countries were authorised to issue five-year multiple-entry business-visas subject to verification of the applicant as a genuine businessman. The policy framework had been put in place and any delays now occurring, were happening at the implementation stage.
The minister of state for foreign affairs pointed out that despite the given policy, the mission still has to circulate the application around for clearance, which causes further delays.
During the discussion, Sharif enquired as to whether the issues relating to Chinese work visas had been resolved. Secretary Interior Division, apprised that our missions were empowered to issue work visas for two years and the time limit of 30 days has been set for the security clearance.
Acknowledging that the visa policy was quite liberal, the cabinet considered the summary titled ‘Inclusion of Countries in Pakistan Online Visa System (POVS) in BVL/other Misc. Matters’ submitted by the Interior Division, and directed the secretary of the interior division and the secretary of foreign affairs to immediately hold a meeting to iron out the procedural delays in POVS, especially relating to business visas.
The Interior Division informed the cabinet that as per revised visa regime issued by the Ministry of Interior, applicants/nationals from 191 countries (List-A) can apply for a Pakistani visa under different categories through POVS.
Furthermore, presently 97 countries were included in the Business Visa List (BVL) to promote business activities in the country and 65 countries were included in the Tourist Visa List (TVL) aimed at enhancing tourism.
At present, only two countries i.e., India and Somalia are included in List-B and not included in POVS. Applicants of these two countries are required to submit manual applications for their visas. The Somalian embassy in Pakistan, however, has requested to include Somalia in POVS to facilitate the Somalian diaspora in Pakistan.
Furthermore, Ministry of Foreign Affairs had recommended the inclusion of more countries on the BVL to promote investment and business opportunities in the country.
A meeting of the Review Committee of the Visa Regime was held on February 15, 2022, with the recommendation that India and Somalia also be included in the list of countries in POVS to facilitate visa applicants of these countries to ensure transparency.
Some other countries which may be included in BVL include Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Rwanda, Belarus and Slovakia.
At present, the duration of the visa for family visit extension cases was a maximum of one-year, which needs to be increased up to two-years to facilitate Pakistani origin applicants (spouses/children of Pakistani origin).
As per the policy, Pakistan’s entry visa was currently being issued upon the provision of a valid passport.
Travel, asylum and temporary documents were not acceptable for the issuance of entry visas. For the convenience of such applicants, however, visa of short-term duration (30 days, single entry, non-extendable) on travel/asylum/temporary documents, duly approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, may be issued.
These changes in the POVS were also proposed to be incorporated in the future.
It was also proposed that the fields showing address and place of stay of applicants, intended entry port/border/airport, place of work, contact details including sponsor details be made mandatory. The same fields shall also be made mandatory for private individuals, other than those working on CPEC projects.
In the case of a business visa, they suggested the contact details of the sponsor be made mandatory.
After discussions, however, the cabinet only approved one proposal; increasing the duration of the visa for family visit extension cases from one-year to two-years.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2022.
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