Islamabad: Pakistan on Friday announced a new e-visa facility open to 175 countries, and visa on arrival for holders of passports from 50 countries, under a “revolutionary” new visa policy.
Now, tourists can visit all parts of the country — including some previously restricted areas, Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
The new visa policy is designed to encourage tourism in the country, known for its amazing landscapes, mountain scenery and cultural diversity, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told journalists in Islamabad.
Visas on arrival will also be provided to Indian-origin British and American citizens holding United States or United Kingdom passports.
Pakistan is “a paradise for tourists”, Chaudhry said, adding the country has huge potential for “mountain tourism, religious tourism, beach and city tourism, and food tourism.”
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party said it aims to make Pakistan a major tourist destination by introducing the tourist-friendly visa policy framed in consultation with concerned departments in a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior officials.
“Tourists can go [now] anywhere in Pakistan, they don’t need no-objection certificates (NOCs) anymore,” Chaudhry 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, the information minister added.
Additionally, the process for acquiring a work visa for nationals of 96 countries for business purposes has been revised, Chaudhry said.
In its new visa policy, Pakistan has also withdrawn restrictions on foreign journalists visiting the country.
Tour operators who are approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will now be allowed to bring groups of tourists to Pakistan.
“The new visa policy is a big success for travel companies who had to go through cumbersome paperwork to invite foreign tourist groups. The move will give a big boost to foreign tourism and economy,” Fahad Aftab, managing partner of Travel One tour company in Islamabad, told Gulf News.
Following a drastic improvement in security situation in Pakistan, the number of foreign tourists rose to 1.75 million in 2017, according to Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation.
Recently, the government also announced opening of Kartarpur Corridor to Sikh pilgrims to boost religious tourism. Last month, British Airways became the first Western airline to resume flights to Pakistan after a 10-year absence, due to improved security situation.