One small scribble on paper; one giant leap for Pakistan-India bilateral relations.
Months after it was first finalised, the much-awaited liberalised visa agreement between India and Pakistan was inked by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna on Saturday, introducing additional visa categories for nationals of both countries.
“This is a sign of friendship,” Malik declared after signing the agreement.
The agreement not only adds new visa categories, it also eases restrictions for bona fide businessmen, pilgrims and senior citizens.
Visa on arrival
For the first time in their bilateral history, citizens of either country, above the age of 65, will be given a 45-day, single entry visa on arrival at the Attari/Wagah check-post. This visa will be non-extendable and non-convertible.
Bona fide businessmen
Under the new agreement, specific visas will be issued to businessmen depending on their financial standing. Businessmen with an income of Pakistani Rs0.5 million per annum, or annual gross sales of Rs3 million, will be given one-year business visa, for five cities, for up to four entries.
Businessmen with an income of at least Pakistani Rs5 million per annum, or annual turnover of Rs30 million, will be given a one-year multiple entry business visas for up to 10 cities, with exemption from police reporting.
Visa for pilgrims
Pilgrims need to apply at least 45 days before the commencement of their intended tour and will be issued a non-extendable, single entry visa for 15 days.
People visiting relatives or friends in the other country will be granted a visa for five specified cities for a period not exceeding six months.
A longer duration visitor visa may be issued, for up to two years with multiple entries, to citizens above the age of 65, spouses of a national of the other country and children below 12 years of age accompanying parents.
Group tourist visa
Group tourist visas may be issued to tourists travelling in groups of not less than 10, and not more than 50, members, organised by approved tour operators.
Such visas will be will be non-extendable, and valid for up to 30 days.
The group tourist visa facility will also be available to students of both countries, but only for tourism, and not for seeking admission in educational institutions of either country.
A non-diplomatic, multiple entry visa will be issued to non-diplomatic members of missions, their spouses and children and the personal servants holding diplomatic or consular ranks. This visa will be valid for the place and duration of assignment of the holders, and will ordinarily be issued within a period not exceeding 45 days of application.
An official visa valid for single entry will be issued to the officials not entitled to diplomatic or non-diplomatic visa. It will be valid for 15 days, for specified places.
Transit visas valid for up to two entries in the city/port of entry for 36 hours in each case will be issued to persons travelling by air or sea and proceeding to another country through Pakistan or India.
No visa will be required for a passenger directly transiting through an airport or seaport, but the stay shall be confined to the international transit area.
A seaman visiting a port as a member of the crew of a ship need not hold a passport or a visa. He may be issued landing permit valid for the port of entry for a period not exceeding 24 hours.
Applicants, except business visa holders, must avail the visa within a period of 90 days from the date of issue. One hundred rupees will be payable for the issuance or extension of visa.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2012.
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