Pakistan has announced five-year visa for American businessmen and tourists in a move that is hoped to be reciprocated by the United States that in March this year reduced visa validity for Pakistanis from five years to 12 months.
“The five-year visa will benefit the investors and tourists of both countries. The visa policy is according to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision to improve tourism and business,” said a Foreign Office official, who wished not to be named. “It may be reciprocated by the US,” he added.
The US on March 5 reduced visa validity for Pakistani citizens from five years to one-year. It also announced not to allow journalists and media persons to stay in the country for over three months without renewing the travel permit.
Meanwhile, an additional fee was levied on H (Temporary Work Visa), I (Journalist and Media Visa), L (Intercompany Transfer Visa), and R (Religious Worker Visa) visas only if the visa application was approved, said a statement issued by the US Embassy in Islamabad.
Additional fee of $32 for I Visas and $38 for all other visa categories was to be paid at the Embassy Islamabad or Consulate General Karachi prior to visa issuance. With the additional fee, journalists and media persons were required to pay $192 while the fee for all other visa categories was $198.
The State Department had taken the decision “because Pakistan was unable to liberalise its visa regime for certain visa categories, [hence] the US was required by US law on January 21 to reduce the visa validity and increase the visa fees to match Pakistan’s practices for similar visa categories.”
The State Department had said it noted discrepancies between the US visa regime and the visa regimes of many countries, including Pakistan during a recent worldwide review. The statement issued by the US Embassy had not specified anything about the B1 and B2 visas, which remain valid for five years.
B1 visa is issued for business visits while the B2 visa is for pleasure, tourism, and medical visits.
According to agency data released in February, the US State Department had refused more than 37,000 visa applications in 2018 due to the Trump administration’s travel ban, up from less than 1,000 the previous year when the ban had not fully taken effect.
The US on Friday also announced to suspend tax exemption privileges enjoyed by Pakistani diplomats in Washington due to parallel disputes with Islamabad in the latest dust-up between the countries.
Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats around the world do not pay taxes in countries where they are posted, with embassy staffers in Washington routinely flashing State Department-issued exemption cards when presented with restaurant bills or going shopping.
The State Department had said it withdrew tax exemptions for Pakistani Embassy employees in Washington and their dependents as of May 15, citing pending tax issues faced by US diplomats in Pakistan. “The issue is the subject of ongoing bilateral discussions, and we hope to be able to resolve the issue and restore the tax privileges,” a State Department spokesman said.
While the latest issue was not linked to politics, the United States last year restricted Pakistani diplomats from traveling outside a 25-mile radius around Washington after charging that Pakistani police routinely harass US diplomats, including through time-consuming traffic stops.