Foreign Office clarifies media reports on US visa sanctions

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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office has rubbished media reports that the United States has imposed visa sanctions on Pakistan over refusal to take back deportees and over-stayers.

“We have seen media reports about a US Federal Registry notification on “introduction of new rules” on consular matters. The insinuations made in the media reports are misleading,” a statement by the Foreign Office said.

It said that there are ongoing discussions between Pakistan and the United States on consular matters including repatriation issues.

“Both countries are working bilaterally on these issues consistent with their respective laws and have made considerable progress.”

The statement further said that there would be no impact on issuance of visas to Pakistani applicants during the ongoing discussion.

“We understand that the US government would continue the normal consular operations at their Embassy in Islamabad and that the ongoing discussions do not affect issuance of visas to routine Pakistani applicants.”

The clarification came after the US State Department warned that it might withhold visas of Pakistanis beginning from its senior officials.

Pakistan is the latest to join the list of 10 nations that have been imposed with sanctions under a US law. Other countries include Ghana, Guyana in 2001, the Gambia in 2016, Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone in 2017, Burma and Laos in 2018.

The law states that countries refusing to take back deportees and visa over-stayers will be denied American visas.

“For some countries, sanctions begin by targeting officials who work in the ministries responsible for accepting the return of that country’s nationals with escalation scenarios that target family members of those officials and potentially officials of other ministries and then other categories of applicants if initial sanctions do not prove effective at encouraging greater cooperation on removals by the targeted government,” the US State Department federal register notification said.