Pakistan proposes single tourist visa for CAREC countries

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Countries belonging to CAREC, the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation program, should consider introducing a single-entry tourist visa for the region. The proposal was made by Pakistan’s government adviser on Institutional and Governance Reforms, Dr Ishrat Husain, at the CAREC Forum on Sustainable Tourism Development.

The CAREC program is made up of:

  • Afghanistan
  • Azerbaijan 
  • China
  • Georgia
  • Kyrgystan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Mongolia
  • Pakistan
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan.

The goal of this new single-visa is to promote economic growth and alleviate poverty through regional cooperation. It aims to promote tourism given the region’s potential as a destination and the many different types of tourism offered within it. According to Dr. Husain, the CAREC countries feature similar attractions and offering these attractions within a single visa program will boost tourist revenue, making it easier to move within the region. He gave as an example that certain religious and mountain sites spanning Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan could be combined as a package.

Current Pakistani visa policy

From March 2019, the Pakistani government began offering electronic visa applications to nationals from Malaysia, China, UK, UAE and Turkey. The Pakistan eVisa make it much easier and faster to apply for a visa allowing travelers to avoid queues at the border.

If this pilot programme is a success then the government intends to extend it to 175 countries. This is part of a new visa regime that includes making group tourism available to nationals of 56 countries and allowing citizens from 155 countries to obtain a visa on arrival.

Previously most foreign nationals wishing to visit Pakistan had to visit the government’s mission abroad to have their visa processed. This meant additional travel, queues and paperwork. Nationals of Trinidad and Tobago, Tonga, Samoa, Nepal and Maldives are entitled to visa-free entry to Pakistan.

CAREC as a tourist destination

Each CAREC country currently has its own (and often very different) visa policy. Travelers should check the visa requirements of the countries they wish to visit beforehand to give themselves enough time to prepare for their trip.

Between them, the 11 members of the CAREC region have a staggering array of possibilities for visitors. In addition to the example mentioned by Dr. Husain, the proposed single-entry visa would also mean access to jewels such as the Great Wall of China, the breath-taking cave city of Vardzia in Georgia or the medieval city of Lahore with its buildings from the Mughal empire days and its captivating markets.

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