The Centre has given the Ministry of External Affairs permission to grant a visa to an applicant if it doesn’t hear from the security agencies in 60 days, a senior Home Ministry official said. The move comes after the Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan Gautam Bambawale met Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi in May and pointed out the huge backlog of visas for Pakistani citizens for want of security clearance.
The government also plans to introduce an online application system leading to faster processing.
Another official said the government was not planning to revoke visas of Pakistani artistes and actors. “There is no such move... We don’t go for knee-jerk reactions,” he said. Aye Dil Hai Mushkil, featuring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, is due for release this month.
Many Indian actors and politicians are against Pakistani artists working in India. An official explained that for an Indian visa to be revoked, the applicant has to have committed a crime in Indian territory or be considered a threat to the country or should be considered an undesirable person.
The changes to the visa proposal have been under consideration since May. An official said the decision had been taken before the September 18 Uri attack, in which 19 personnel were killed.
“For any visa applicant from Pakistan, we seek a report from the security agencies. Earlier the deadline was 40 days. We have revised it to 60 days now and have told MEA that if they don’t hear from the security agencies on the status of an applicant, they should grant the visa on 61st day,” the Home Ministry official said.
As per the latest data available with the Home Ministry, from March-December 2015, in all 81,477 visa applications were received from Pakistanis, of which 49,265 cases were processed and 32,212 were pending for want of security clearances.
Ending ambiguity “The security agencies will have to either say yes or no within the stipulated time frame. The final decision ought to be conveyed to the Pakistani applicant in time. There should be no scope for ambiguity,” said the official.
The move comes after several visitors from Pakistan complained that the procedure was cumbersome.
For countries put under the restricted category, like Pakistan, China and Afghanistan, any visa application has to be cleared by the home ministry.
A central database is also being maintained now to verify the details of those who regulalrly come to India.