In an effort that is expected to increase people-to-people contact and allow easier travel for pilgrims, tourists and business travellers, India and Pakistan today operationalised a new liberalised visa regime, making a departure from the restrictive visa regime under the earlier agreement inked in 1974.
The new visa agreement was inked on September 8 at Islamabad during the then External Affairs Minister SM Krishna’s visit to Pakistan. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik formally operationalised the new visa regime today.
Visas on arrival for senior citizens and children will commence from January 15, 2013, while group tourist visas can be applied from March 15, 2013. Both, Shinde and Malik welcomed the new visa regime.
Importantly, for the first time, the two neighbours will allow group tourist visas, opening up access to the rich history divided across the Radcliff line. Designated tour operators will be allowed to ferry groups of no more than 50 persons. This will be a 30-day visa. Educational institutions can also send children on visit to either country.
Till now, there was no concept of a business visa. Now businessmen will be covered under two categories. Those with an annual turnover of Pakistani Rs 3 crore ($ 3,00,000 approx) will be allowed one-year multiple entry visas with permission to visit 10 places. They will be exempt from police reporting. The second category is for those with less than Pakistani Rs 30 lakh turnover. They will get a one-year visa with permission of four visits to five places.
Another major change is for visitors. At present, a visitor visa is issued for three months with the restriction to visit three places. Now two categories have been formed. The first is a six-month visitor visa with permission to visit five cities.
- The businessmen with an annual turnover of Pakistani Rs 3 crore will be allowed one-year multiple entry visas with permission to visit 10 places
- The second category is for those with less than Pakistani Rs 30 lakh turnover. They will get a one-year visa with permission of four visits to five places