Foreign technical experts facing difficulties for Pakistan visas

ISLAMABAD - Foreign professionals and technical experts who intend to visit Pakistan for construction purposes have to go through a lengthy troublesome process to get work visas for Pakistan, authentic sources told TheNation. Professionals from different countries, most of which are engineers and architects, have reservations pertaining to the current visa procedure for work. The sufferers include the personnel of foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international organisations (IOs), international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), prominent construction companies and international agencies. TheNation learnt that the credentials of applicants for Pakistani work visa are first sent to Board of Investment (BOI) for scrutiny and official procedures. The BOI takes about 45 days to two months for clearance, provided that no objection is raised against the documents of the applicants on part of the BOI. The case is then forwarded to the Ministry of Interior for further processing. The Ministry takes about 15 days to clear the documents only if Ministry does not have any objection, which ordinarily, does not happen. Thereafter, the documents of the foreign applicants interested in work visa of Pakistan are sent to Regional Passport Office (RPO) that takes one week to issue the visa. "All these procedures take about 2 to 3 months if the BOI or Interior Ministry don't send back the file with some objections which they often do, and the time span is multiplied", lamented a foreign professional. "ERRA keeps on writing to Interior Ministry to enhance the visa process for the engineers who are involved in reconstruction and rehabilitation in quake affected areas. But the Ministry has turned a deaf ear towards the requests of ERRA", he added. The entire procedure for visa pursuit is so extensive, hectic and complex that in most of the cases, the foreign companies had to wind up their projects since their professionals were not issued visas in time. "Very often, when our manpower gets work visas, the project is over or it's in finishing touches", said another professional. Some written documents and written proofs have revealed that many foreign experts could not step into Pakistan in time to follow the construction projects initiated by their employers. As a consequence, either the project had to be abandoned or it was in the process of completion, and the desired objectives could not be attained. The renewal of expired work visas is yet another phenomenon that adds to the miseries of foreigners in Pakistan. "When our visas are expired and we apply for renewal, one can't imagine the extent of agony we have to pass through", said an architect. "Neither the Board of Investment nor Interior Ministry accepts any responsibility and yet again, we are put to trouble to get our visas renewed", he added. Many experts abroad, do not apply for work visas for Pakistan due to prolonged delays and troublesome procedures. The authorities concerned do not seem to be bothered at all about the urgency of the matter. "This malafide negligence on part of BOI and Interior Ministry is not only discouraging foreign investment but it also stops the exchange of skilful experts", noted an engineer. The procedure that BOI adopts to clear the documents of the visa applicants is again repeated by interior ministry with some minor changes, mentioned the sources. "Whatever Interior Ministry does is mere repetition of what has already been done by BOI, their bureaucratic demeanour is sheer wastage of our precious time. It should not take more than one week for the visas to be issued instead of several months". It is to be mentioned that foreign experts and engineers bring capital in Pakistan besides skilled experts and labours. The unjustified delays on part of the governmental departments followed by bureaucratic apathy calls for stern and immediate action, in the face of continuous bearish trends in Pakistani stock exchanges and deteriorating economic indicators.

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