India and Pakistan are set to issue,for the first time in their histories,tourist visas to each others citizens. New Delhi and Islamabad will also ease visa conditions for families of individuals with spouses in the other country,and issue visas on arrival at Wagah-Attari for senior citizens and young children.
The groundbreaking relaxation in visa rules will be finalised during the meeting of Home Secretary R K Singh with his Pakistani counterpart K M Siddique Akbar in Islamabad on May 24 and May 25.
Once the agreement is signed,efforts will be made to make the new visa rules operational after External Affairs minister S M Krishna meets Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar in the third week of July,sources said. The rules are expected to come into force by August,they said.
The following are key features of the liberalized bilateral visa agreement,accessed by The Indian Express. It has been negotiated by a joint working group from both sides. Interestingly,all references to currency in the negotiated text have been kept at Pakistani Rupees or its equivalent. Currently,100 Pakistan rupees are equal to about 60 Indian rupees.
Group tourist visas will be issued for the first time to groups of 10-50 individuals. The group tour will have to be organised by an approved operator or travel agent. The visa will be valid for 30 days,and cannot be extended. The operator will have to submit a detailed itinerary,and will be responsible for reporting to police for the group. Groups of school and college students can visit each others country on the group tourist visa.
Families of individuals married to a national of the other country will be eligible for two-year,multiple entry visas. One person will be able to report to police on behalf of the entire family.
Businessmen will be able to travel more easily. Category A businessmen,with an annual turnover of Pakistan rupees 5 million or more will get a one-year multiple-entry visa,and will be able to travel to 10 places.
Category B businessmen,with an annual turnover of half a million Pakistan rupees will be eligible for a one-year visa with up to four entries,and can travel to five places.
Businessmen will not have to go to the police station to report their presence; they can send a representative.
There will be visa-on-arrival for senior citizens (65 years and above) and young children (12 years and below) at the Wagah-Attari border. They will be given a visa for 45 days. While the Pakistani side wanted visa-on-arrival at all entry and exit points,the Indian side is understood to have agreed only to Wagah-Attari. Holders of this category of visa will be exempt from reporting to police.
The number of cities that a normal visitor can go to has been increased from the existing three to five.
Currently,visitors are expected to enter and exit through the same point. This will be relaxed to allow entry and exit through any point.
Visiting or transit visa fees,currently Rs 15 for both sides,will be increased to Pakistan rupees 200. This will mean Rs 120 in Indian currency,at todays exchange rate.
LIBERALISED bilateral visa agreement to be finalised at the home secretaries meeting in Islamabad on May 24 and 25.
GROUP VISAS for tour groups of 10-50,including student groups,for 30 days. Tour to be organised by approved operator.
BUSINESSMEN eligible for a visa valid for up to a year; multiple entry; allowed to travel to 10 places.
FAMILIES of individuals with a spouse of the other country will be eligible for two-year,multiple entry visas.
VISA-ON-ARRIVAL,valid for 45 days,for people above 65 years and children below 12 years at Wagah-Attari border. Holders exempt from police reporting.
ENTRY,EXIT through multiple points; can visit up to 5 cities