United States reduces visa limit for Pakistani journalists from five years to three months

The United States on Tuesday reduced the visa limit for Pakistani journalists from five years to three months, Geo TV reported. The US government also slashed the limit for work visas and visas for religious work from five years to one year.

The US embassy in Islamabad added that visas for trade, tourism and students will remain valid for a period of five years.

A US embassy statement said that the reduction was carried out to correct discrepancies between the American and Pakistani visa regimes. “Because Pakistan was unable to liberalise its visa regime for certain visa categories, 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,” it said.

The visa fees for journalists have been increased by $32, the embassy said. Visa fees for religious workers, temporary work and inter-company transfers have been raised by $38, the embassy added. Geo TV reported that this means the visa fees for journalists will now be $192 instead of $160.

“The government officials will be issued visas having duration based on the nature of their work,” the channel added.

The announcement came weeks after the February 14 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, where 40 CRPF personnel were killed. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad had claimed responsibility for the attack. Over a week after the attack, on February 26, the Indian Air Force struck a camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist group in Balakot in Pakistan. Both countries engaged in aerial skirmishes the next day, and Pakistan captured IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, after his fighter jet was shot down. Varthaman was later released.

The United States has often criticised Pakistan for allegedly providing safe havens to terrorists and has in the past suspended financial aid to Islamabad.