SAARC immigration authorities deliberate visa exemption scheme

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The 7th meeting of immigration authorities of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held in Islamabad on Tuesday deliberated on the SAARC visa exemption scheme (SVES) and other related issues, with the objective to streamline processes and facilitate business community, cultural representatives and officials from member states availing this facility.

Pakistan’s Immigration and Passports Director General Usman A Bajwa, who was unanimously elected as the chairman, chaired the meeting.

In his remarks, Bajwa observed that the SVES was conceived to encourage people-to-people contacts and facilitate mutual exchanges through a liberal visa regime. He however noted that there remained areas within the SVES which required a review to maximise full potential of the scheme and broadening its scope.

Bajwa expressed the hope that valuable input and recommendations made by member states would help improve and strengthen the current scheme, adding that SAARC home secretaries would meet tomorrow (Wednesday) while SAARC interior ministers would meet on Thursday and would review the recommendations formulated by the SAARC immigration authorities.

The meeting also deliberated on development of security software for SAARC visa scheme for transforming the existing manual system of visa exemption scheme into an online visa application system, with central database providing all member states with real-time and secure information.