PM launches country’s innovative online visa system to boost tourism, business

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ISLAMABAD, :Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday launched the country’s innovative online visa system, making it easy for citizens of 175 countries to get the visa from ease of their homes in a bid to boost tourism and business.
“This is a first step and reflective of the confidence of the country as it opens its doors for investors, entrepreneurs, tourists and students; inviting them to come to visit Pakistan,” he told a gathering comprising a large number of diplomats, here at the auditorium of the Prime Minister Office.
The prime minister earlier launched the online portal with the press of a button that would allow travelers to submit their details, documents and payment online to get the visa in seven to ten days and said the new system had done away with the earlier mindset which discouraged the foreigners to visit Pakistan.
Imran Khan quoted a Chinese saying; “to take a thousand mile journey, you have to take a first step,” and said Pakistan had rich cultural heritage, scenic sights, world’s highest peaks, diversity of landscape, four seasons, desert and beaches.
“We have double the size of land in Northern Areas than Switzerland with bewitching beauty,” he said and recalled how his teacher Major (Retd) Geoffrey Douglas Langlands instilled in him the love of trekking and appreciation of natural beauty of the country.
He said Pakistan still had large areas of undiscovered beauty and pointed that a Tourism Task Force had been constituted that would also focus on eco and religious tourism.
Mentioning the importance of religious tourism, he said Pakistan had the world’s most sacred Buddhist sites, besides those for Sikhs, Hindus and the Sufis.
He called for urgent measures to boost beach tourism and preservation and protection of the old cities like the 2,500 year oldest living city of Peshawar, Lahore, Multan and others.
The online visa system has initially been launched for China, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Malaysia.
The new visa system had simplified processing of visa to “promote tourism and generate economic activity” and would also make it easy for citizens of 96 countries to get a work visa for business purpose.
The duration of diplomatic and student visa has been extended, however the visa for religious purpose will remain valid for 45 days.
A visa-on-arrival facility has been introduced for tourists of 50 countries, besides a business visa-on-arrival for citizens of 96 countries. The travelers for on-arrival visas will be able to apply for Electronic Travel Authorisation at least 48 hours prior to travel and will be issues visa at the port of entry.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government inherited a US$19 billion current account deficit and asked the gathering to compare it with US$ 22 billion revenue generated by Malaysia and US$ 40 billion by Turkey, through tourism alone.
He said Pakistan needed to properly market its one of the steepest skiing resorts in the world, and other areas of natural beauty and directed the country’s missions abroad to be more proactive and to invite investment.
He mentioned the challenges the country had to face and how it countered terrorism with the help of its armed forces and the resolute people. “Pakistan today is a secure country, and has embarked on a journey of peace.”
Imran Khan announced holding of the next Pakistan Super League cricket matches within Pakistan, amidst a big applause, and said, “I know how boring it is to play a match in a stadium with hundreds of vacant seats.”
He said Pakistan might continue to face a difficult time, till the general election in India were over. He said incidents like the ones in Kashmir happened, when an election campaign was run by fanning hatred.
Under the online visa system, the visas for journalists would be vetted by the Ministry of Information and restrictions on their travel to only three cities had also been lifted.
The foreign tourists would no longer require a no-objection certificate to visit Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
The visa categories include; tourist, family, business, student, official, work, diplomatic, journalist, non governmental organizations/international non governmental organizations, others, missionary, Tableegh and domestic aide visa.
The fee structure varies according to; visa category, entry and application types and applicant country. The secure online system has also been integrated with the existing border management system to monitor entry, exit of persons to and from Pakistan.
The visa on arrival facility will also be provided to British and American citizens holding the passports of the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

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