International Airport Islamabad, Pakistan
International Airport Islamabad, Pakistan Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: The UAE will be included in the initial list of countries to be granted visa on arrival by Pakistan as part of its new visa policy being announced on Thursday.

“Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to formally inaugurate the new relaxed visa regime on Thursday,” said Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Pakistan’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting.

He said that prime minister would initially roll out a project of visa free policy for five preferred countries including United Arab Emirates, Turkey, China, Malaysia, the United Kingdom. It means that the citizens of the UAE and other four countries will be granted visa on arrival at Pakistani airports.

In the second phase, names of the 45 more countries will be announced in the visa-on arrival category, he said. All other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will also be given on-arrival visa for 30 days once the policy is further expanded in future.

“The basic aim is that we should not see Pakistan in the perspective of a security state and open the country for the world,” he added.

Hussain had told Gulf News in an earlier interview in Dubai that the aim of introducing the new visa regime is to bolster tourism, trade and foreign investment.

In January, 2019, the governemnt had announced that it was easing travel restrictions in the hope of reviving tourism by offering visas on arrival to visitors from 50 countries and electronic visas to 175 nationalities.

“By introducing a new relaxed visa policy, we want to open up our country to tourists from around the world as Pakistan has been a ‘closed’ country for the last 70 years,” said Hussain.

Now, he said, there would be no restrictions on visas for journalists and also there will be no restricted areas for visitors. “Tourists can now go anywhere in Pakistan, they don’t need no-objection certificates (NOCs) anymore,” he said.

He said 175 countries will get the e-visa facility while 96 countries are included in the business visa category and some 50 countries will get visas on arrival.

“This is a massive policy shift in the country as we want to develop tourism,” he said.

The duration of diplomatic and student visas has also been extended from one year to three years, and one year to two years, respectively, while visas for religious purposes will remain valid for 45 days.

Tour operators who are approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will now be allowed to bring groups of tourists to Pakistan.

Salient features of new visa regime:

■ e-Visa for 175 countries

■ Visa on arrival for 50 countries (earlier they were 24)

■ Business visa for preferred 90 countries (earlier they were 68)

Work visa: Pakistan missions to issue visas on recommendation of Board of Investment (BOI)

Family visit: 5-year multiple entry visa in 7-10 working days

■ Pakistan missions to grant 5-year validity and one-year stay (multiple) entry visa to foreigners of Pakistani origin and their spouses

Diplomatic visa: Tenure of diplomatic/official assignment

■ On arrival visa facility of Sikhs who hold Canadian and British Passports

■ Tablighi (religious groups) visa: 45 days

Missionary visa: 1 year

Student visa: 2 years