ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will issue five-year visas to US businessmen and tourists in order to get the same from the US after it reduced the visa validity from five years to one year earlier in March this year.
The US Department of State said that they are implementing enhanced screening procedure according to which, all applicants now have to submit their social media handles.
According to the statement issued by the US, the new rule would add an extra security measurement which would eventually help to eliminate anyone having questionable content on their profiles. This is mandatory for all applicants, including those who are on a temporary visit.
The department further said, “National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveller and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening, we are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”
This would likely affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants, even not sparing those who want to come to the U.S. for business or education. Although, applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types are exempted from the requirements and won’t be asked to submit the details of their social media accounts.
Earlier in March, US reduced visa validity for Pakistani citizens from five years to 12 months whereas journalists and media persons will not be allowed to stay in the country for over three months without renewing the travel permit, the US embassy in Islamabad announced on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, an additional fee will also be charged for H (Temporary Work Visa), I (Journalist and Media Visa), L (Intercompany Transfer Visa), and R (Religious Worker Visa) visas only if the visa application is approved.
An additional fee of $32 for I Visas and $38 for all other visa categories must be paid at the Embassy Islamabad or Consulate General Karachi prior to visa issuance, it added.
The decision was taken by the State Department “because Pakistan was unable to liberalise its visa regime for certain visa categories, [hence] the United States was required by US law on January 21 to reduce the visa validity and increase the visa fees to match Pakistan’s practices for similar visa categories.”
The State Department said it noted discrepancies between the US visa regime and the visa regimes of many countries, including Pakistan during a recent worldwide review.
According to agency data released last month, the US State Department refused more than 37,000 visa applications in 2018 due to the Trump administration’s travel ban, up from less than 1,000 the previous year when the ban had not fully taken effect.