In a move that would provide relief to many Pakistani nationals, the Home Ministry has relaxed the norms for granting extension of long-term visa (LTV) to at least four categories of such people staying in India.

Those who qualify for getting exemption from the provisions of Rule 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, include members of minority communities like Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan; Pakistani women married to Indian nationals and staying in India; Indian women married to Pakistani nationals and returning due to widowhood/divorce and having no male member to support them in Pakistan; and cases involving extreme compassion.

The Ministry has asked the State governments and Union Territories to consider cases for extension of long-term visa of these categories without insisting on validity of passports, as such Pakistani nationals have come to India permanently with the intention to attain Indian citizenship. However, only such Pakistani nationals are eligible to be considered for grant or extension of long-term visas who had come to India on or before December 31, 2009, says an official release issued on Thursday.

Grant of long-term visa is also being considered in the case of male Muslim members being originally Indian citizens who went to Pakistan after Partition leaving behind family in India and returned to India on a valid passport, issued by the Pakistani government and settled in Kerala so that they could acquire Indian citizenship.

Such Pakistani nationals were unable to extend the validity period of their passports for reasons such as the Pakistan High Commission's refusal to extend the validity of passport in the absence of computerised national identity card.

Pakistan is issuing computerised national identity cards to its nationals and extends the validity of passports only for those who possess such cards.

The Home Ministry has been receiving a large number of references from such Pakistani nationals staying in various States where their passports had expired and they were not able to renew it. In the absence of valid passport and visa, they are not considered for Indian citizenship.

Taking a liberal view of the problem, the Home Ministry examined the matter in consultation with the External Affairs and Law Ministries and decided to grant exemption to such Pakistani nationals from the provision of Rule 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act. The Ministry issued the order to this effect on May 15, the release said.