India, Pakistan ease visa norms

India, Pakistan ease visa norms

New category visitor visa created

India, Pakistan ease visa norms

In a historic development that will go a long way in normalising relations between India and Pakistan, the two countries on Saturday ushered in a new visa regime aimed at increasing people-to-people contact and visit of business people.

The liberalised norms, signed by external affairs minister S M Krishna and Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik, introduce a number of measures aimed at easing of travel for businessmen, tourists, pilgrims, elderly people and children. The two sides also signed a MoU on cooperation in the field of culture.

According to the new visa regime, travellers will be issued with a single-entry visitor visa for a maximum of six months, but the stay cannot exceed three months at a time. The visa covers five places as against three now. A new category has been created for visitor visa, under which permit will be issued for five specified places for two years with multiple entries to senior citizens, spouse of a national of one country married to person of another country and children below 12 years accompanied their parents.

A new tourist visa – group tourist visa – has been created for a group of 10 to 50 valid for 30 days and organised by an approved tour operator/travel agent. The facility will also be available for students. Another new concept is pilgrim visas to visit religious shrines. In another important feature, the two countries agreed to provide a 45-day ‘visa on arrival’ for persons of more than 65 years at Attari/Wagha border. Chennai has been made a check-post in addition to Mumbai and Delhi while in Pakistan, check-posts would be Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. People can enter and exit from different check-posts and change in mode of travel will also be permitted.

As for business visa, businessmen with an income of half a million Pakistani rupees or equivalent per annum or annual turnover/ gross sale of Rs 3 million will be given one-year business visa with five places for up to four entries. Businessmen with an income of at least Pak Rs 5 million per annum or turnover of Pak Rs 30 million will be given one-year multiple entry visa up to 10 places with exemption from police reporting (one Indian rupee is equal to Pak Rs 1.71.)  While the reform will lead to increased two-way visits, it is also expected to enhance cross-LoC trade. Both sides have agreed for 21 products for cross-LoC trade.

 The working group of two sides which met on Friday agreed to the need to promote friendly exchanges between the two countries. The working group has decided to exchange journalists and information personnel, organise film festivals in each other’s countries, hold seminars/­workshops between Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi and a Pakistani institute etc. The working group agreed to boost friendly ties in the fields of agriculture, education, environment, health, information, IT and telecom, science and technology and tourism.