- No change in US visa policy for ordinary Pakistanis
- Pakistan is committed to take back deportees
- More than 100 Pakistanis have been deported from the US so far
Dubai: The proposed US visa sanctions will not have any impact on common Pakistanis as they can continue to apply for immigrant and non-immigrant visas in routine, according to Pakistan Foreign Office.
“The United States will continue their normal consular operations at the US Embassy in Islamabad and elsewhere as the ongoing discussions on consular matters, including repatriation of people on deportation list, do not affect the issuance of visas to routine Pakistani applicants,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release.
The Foreign Office statement said that the information regarding US visa restrictions for Pakistanis reported by the media is misleading.
Media reports claimed on Saturday that the United States had added Pakistan to a list of countries which face visa restrictions for refusing to take back their citizen deportees and visa over stayers.
“There are ongoing discussions between Pakistan and the United States on consular matters including repatriation issues," the FO said. "Both countries are working bilaterally on these issues consistent with their respective laws and have made considerable progress.”
Pakistan is the latest in a list of nine other countries that face sanctions imposed by the US under the rule, according to which nations refusing to take back deportees and visa over-stayers would be denied visas.
The matter has been under discussion between officials from the two sides for over a year. In most instances, the citizenship of such individuals was either not proven, and, in some cases, the relevant documents of the individuals were destroyed or forged and, thus, could not be verified.
Only applies to officials
An official notification posted on the US Federal Register this week may lead to refusal of visas to those Pakistani officials who oversee the country’s policy for accepting deportees. But the US Embassy in Islamabad clarified that “consular operations in Pakistan remain normal and unchanged”.
In a statement posted on social media, the embassy said that “the matter noted in the Federal Register is a bilateral issue of ongoing discussions between the US and Pakistani governments. We are not going to get into the specifics of this issue”.
Pakistani officials told Dawn news that Islamabad was “100 percent committed” to taking back those deportees who were Pakistani citizens.
Over the last 18 months, the United States has deported more than 100 Pakistani citizens in two flights. A third flight is scheduled to leave for Pakistan sometime next month with 50 more deportees.
Pakistani officials explained that while the government accepts deportees whose citizenship can be proven, it insists on verifying the claims of those who do not have proper documentation to prove their ties to Pakistan.
Such cases involve Afghan refugees who were living in Pakistan before they came to the United States and Pakistanis who have been living in the Middle East for several generations.
“The US visa restriction, if imposed, may apply to some officials in the interior ministry,” said a Pakistani official when asked for comments. “It may not affect private citizens.”
The new US visa sanctions have been imposed on 10 countries. These are Guyana, The Gambia, Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Burma, Laos, and Ghana and Pakistan.