The government is considering the possibility of giving two years visa extension to Chinese nationals working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.
The government may approve a general two-year extension, a senior government official told The Express Tribune. He said that the Ministry of Interior has been requested to make a case for extension and bring it before the Cabinet Committee on CPEC.
Another option that is being considered is to link the visa period with the completion date of the multibillion-dollar project, which could end the requirement of seeking an extension.
The Ministry of Interior authorities said Chinese nationals faced problems after the government started regulating them. Some of the Chinese nationals were coming on business visas but were doing job here, which was in a violation of the visa policy, they added. This, according to them, created a situation where the visa renewals and approvals became a little time-consuming.
Pakistani authorities had also blacklisted some of the Chinese nationals working on a power project due to what the company described as “mismanagement of visa handling”, showed a January 2021 correspondence between the company and the Director General of Immigration and Passport Office.
However, in some cases the Pakistani authorities have also provided respite to the Chinese nationals who were stuck up in Pakistan after their visas expired. Pakistan allowed one-time exit, showed the Immigration office documents.
In March 2019, Pakistan had revised its overall visa policy, which was aimed at facilitating foreigners in getting timely visas. The maximum processing time has been set from four weeks to six weeks. But the record of some of the Chinese nationals suggested that this policy is not being implemented in letter and spirit.
For instance, a Chinese national submitted an application for work visa in November 2019 and he was declined the visa as late as March 26th, 2021 -14 months after the applicant applied for visa through Pakistan online visa system.
An Interior Ministry official said that the interior minister has directed to further reduce the visa processing time to four weeks and allowed to issue visas in case the prime intelligence agency gives security clearance.
During past two years (March 2019 to 2021), as many as 297,000 foreigners had applied for Pakistani visas and the immigration office approved roughly 241,100 applications, which is about 81% of the total applications.
During this period, as many as 62,000 Chinese nationals applied for visas, including nearly 9,000 extension applications, showed the record of the immigration office.
However, it was not clear how many of those applications were approved by Pakistani authorities.
The sources said that hundreds of Chinese nationals were either waiting for entry visas or for extensions.
Pakistan has been trying to secure a date for the 10th Joint Cooperation Committee meeting since October last year, which it believes will show the country’s commitment to CPEC.
A senior government official said that it was expected that the JCC meeting might take place before start of Ramazan. Whenever it takes place, it will be a virtual meeting.
One of the points of discussion for the next JCC will be maintaining the policy stability, which according to the Chinese authorities was of great significance for the orderly implementation, sustainable operation and subsequent cooperation of the CPEC energy projects.
The sources said that China did not endorse Pakistan’s decision to reopen tariffs and tax structures that had been signed under the energy project deals. They said that China would be looking forward for a fresh commitment to maintain the tax and tariff policies for the total project period.
The government has entered into agreements with the Independent Power Producers to reduce their monetary benefits and tariffs. But China has refused to reopen the CPEC energy deals.