Pakistan announces introduction of new visa policy to promote tourism, investment

Islamabad, PakistanUpdated: Jan 26, 2019, 09:34 AM IST
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File photo: Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Photograph:(AFP)

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'The new policy will attract more tourists. We have mountain tourism, religious tourism, beach tourism, cities and huge food tourism,' Fawad Chaudhary said.

Pakistan on Friday announced introduction of a new visa policy in a bid to revive the tourism sector which was decimated by years of neglect and terrorism.

Under the new policy, the citizens of 175 countries will be able to get visa electronically, over the internet, while visa-on-arrival facility would be provided to the nationals of 60 countries, including the Indian-origin US and UK nationals on their American and British passports.

Pakistan's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary told reporters here that Pakistan had open visa policy until 1965 and was one of the leading tourism destinations.

"The new policy will attract more tourists. We have mountain tourism, religious tourism, beach tourism, cities and huge food tourism," he said.

Chaudhary said that after consulting with different departments, the government decided to provide the e-visa facility to the nationals of 175 countries.

The government has also decided to ease the process for granting work visa to the nationals of 96 countries.

To promote business, a businessman would get a visa in 7-10 days, but they would need a letter from the Board of Investment.

Changing the visa rules for diplomats, Chaudhary said now diplomats would be issued a visa for three years, instead of one year earlier while student will get a visa for two years, instead of one year.

Visas issued for religious purposes would remain valid for 45 days, the Minister added.

In another major development, the Pakistan government has decided to lift the restriction on the movement of journalists in the country.

Earlier, journalists were restricted to move in three cities only but under the new regime, journalist visas would be issued for visiting other cities on the recommendation of the information ministry.

Chaudhary said that foreign tourists will get visa to visit the whole country but they will have to take special permission to travel to the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

He said the Cabinet on Thursday also decided to relax visa policy for the nationals of 60 countries and given them Pakistani visas on arrival.

"This is massive change in the country's visa regime to facilitate people to come to Pakistan," the Minister said. "We are going to open Pakistan to foreign journalists, businessmen, tourists and investors."

The decision to ease visa regime was taken following a meeting of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa who approved the decision to relax the visa rules.

Chaudhry said the Cabinet also decided to reform media regulatory regime by merging different bodies created to oversee print and electronic media.

Cabinet approved formation of the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PMRA) after merging the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) that will regulate all kinds of media. P