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Most foreign students at Punjab seminaries on expired visas

Updated July 08, 2019

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More than 300 foreign students, including 286 whose visas have expired, have been living and studying at religious seminaries in Punjab. — APP/File
More than 300 foreign students, including 286 whose visas have expired, have been living and studying at religious seminaries in Punjab. — APP/File

RAWALPINDI: More than 300 foreign students, including 286 whose visas have expired, have been living and studying at religious seminaries in Punjab. Their seminaries’ administrations have been directed to send their documents to the Ministry of Interior so their visas can be extended to avoid legal action.

According to sources the 302 students are from 26 countries, among them India, China, Chad, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Algeria, Uganda, Comoros, Jordan, Senegal, Liberia and Myanmar. Their visa status was discovered during routine checks on foreign students by Special Branch field staff.

The checks found that 286 students’ visas had expired and they were staying in the country without any legal documentation. In Rawalpindi district, only two of 20 foreign seminary students held valid visas and the rest were in the country without them.

Of these 18 students, 12 are from Thailand, two from Malaysia, two from China, one from Kazakhstan and one from the Philippines.

Nine foreign students have been studying in Gujranwala district, of which four have valid visas. In Attock, all five foreign seminary students do not have valid visas.

Valid visas of foreign students will last up until 2023, sources said.

Of the students with expired visas, 70 are from Thailand, 55 from the Phillipines, 31 from Indonesia, 20 each from Malaysia, Sudan and China, 14 each from Kazakhstan and Chad and 11 from Algeria. There are also three Indian students with expired visas studying in Lahore.

Special Branch has asked seminaries’ administrations to send foreign students’ documents to the interior ministry so their visas can be extended. The district police have also been directed to coordinate with seminary administrations to ensure foreign students’ security and monitor their movement.

According to a senior security official, student visas are granted after requests from students are received by the ministries of interior and education. Such visas are granted after the concerned ministries and Pakistani missions have issued no-objection certificates and security clearance.

He said that when foreign students’ visas expire, extension applications are sent to the Ministry of Interior by seminary administration.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2019