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September 8, 2012

India, Pakistan sign new visa regime

     Islamabad: India and Pakistan signed an agreement for a new visa regime on Saturday which is expected to encourage greater people-to-people and enhanced business contacts between the two countries. Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Adviser to the Pakistan Prime Minister on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik inked the new agreement here this evening in the presence of Indian and Pakistani delegations. The new visa regime replaces a 38-year-old largely restrictive visa agreement. It ensures for the first time time-bound visa approval between the two countries, and greater people-to-people contacts, besides boosting trade ties. The new visa agreement will facilitate multiple-entry and reporting-free visas for businessmen, allowing them to visit five cities instead of three, as is the case at present. It will also exempt citizens aged 65 and over from reporting to the police, and allows common people from India and Pakistan to visit three cities of their choice, instead of one allowed under the previous visa regime. The new visa regime also allows for a visa-on-arrival facility at the Wagah/Attari check-post for senior citizens aged above 65 and children. For the first time, group tourism figures under the new visa regime. In all, eight categories of visas, including diplomatic, non-diplomatic, transit, tourist visas, civil society, media and business visas have been offered under the new agreement. The visa fee, which was twelve Indian Rupees or 15 Pakistani Rupees under the 1974 regime, will be fixed at 100 Pakistani Rupees or its equivalent in Indian Rupees. Under the old regime, there was no provision for validity of visa, but under the new regime, the applicant must avail the visa within a period of 90 days from the date of issue. If there are grounds requiring extension of validity, the concerned mission will take a decision on such requests on priority. This provision will not be applicable to the holders of Business Visa.
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