WASHINGTON: Pakistan has decided to give five-year, multiple-entry visas to US nationals, the government said.
In a note sent late last month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad, advised Pakistani diplomatic missions in the United States to follow the new policy while issuing visas to American nationals.
The ministry first conveyed this change to the US Embassy in Islamabad on May 10 while responding to a query regarding the duration of visit/tourist visas for US nationals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs “has the honour to state that the government of Pakistan, in line with its policy to encourage tourism, has allowed granting of multiple-entry visas to US nationals for up to five years with a maximum stay of three months,” the note said.
The US used to issue the same kind of visa to Pakistanis, but recently changed its policy for some categories.
The United States had long demanded this change in Pakistan’s visa policy and recently changed its own policy for specific categories when Pakistan did not respond.
The Americans issue five-year, multiple-entry tourist and visit visas to Pakistani nationals. In some cases, professionals, such as journalists, were also issued five-year multiple visas.
In return, the Americans demanded similar facilities for their nationals.
But now the United States is only issuing three-month visas for some categories and also has enforced new restrictions on official visas.
A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Islamabad told Dawn via a message that "there has been no change in US visa policy for Pakistani tourists and business travellers and we continue to issue five-year validity visas in most cases as we have done for years."
In April, the United States added Pakistan to a list of 10 nations sanctioned for refusing to take back deportees and visa overstayers.
The new restriction bars some officials of the Interior Ministry from receiving US visas.
But even before this change in the US visa policy, Pakistan had started issuing 90-day visas to American nationals, which could be extended by the Interior Ministry in Islamabad after arrival. In some cases, one-year visas with a 90-day stay were also issued.
As the diplomatic note sent to the US Embassy in Islamabad indicates, the Americans have long been demanding a five-year visa, multiple-entry visas.
Their argument was that visas facilities are usually bilateral and since they issue five-year, multiple-entry visas to Pakistanis, Pakistan should do the same for their nationals.
For officials posted at each other’s diplomatic missions, both countries have a separate policy. Since Islamabad is no longer a family station, Americans are issued a one-year visa, which is easily extendable if the diplomat stays longer.
Since Pakistani diplomats in the United States are usually posted for a period of three years, they are given visas for the entire tenure.
Pakistani nationals in the US hope that a new, and more relaxed, Pakistani visas policy, would ultimately lead to the restoration of the previous US visa policy for Pakistan. But they also say that this change should have come earlier, before the Americans imposed new restrictions.
“Now, Washington will take its own time in reconsidering its policy, and this change may come in months or may take years. We don’t know,” one of them said.
Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2019