by Yasir Habib Khan
In a major development, China has opened Lahore Visa Service Center to facilitate applications submitted to seek Chinese visa. Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing inaugurated the center.
Punjab government high-ranked officials, Chinese Lahore Consul General Long Dingbin, Deputy consul general Peng Zhengwu and other senior officers participated in inaugural ceremony.
Talking to China Economic Net (CEN), Deputy Counsel General Lahore Mr. Peng Zhengwu said that inauguration of Lahore Visa Center was a landmark step to bring ease to local people. "Earlier, people of Lahore had to travel to Islamabad to apply for Chinese visa that cost commutation expense and exhaustion. It is an enormous relief to growing number of businessmen and others hailing from Lahore, most important city and new hub of economic activity in Punjab province", he added. The plan to lay down visa facility, he said, was in pipeline over the last many months and finally it has been materialized in befitting manner.
Responding to a question, he elaborated that in order to facilitate people to people exchanges between China and Pakistan and provide a more comfortable environment and more efficient services to the applicants, Lahore Visa Center will handle Chinese ordinary visa, Hong Kong SAR visa and Macao SAR visa applications, biometric information collection and visa delivery.
Clarifying the function and powers of visa center, he said it did not have any power to issue visa, adding that its main operation will be collection and forward of all relevant documents to Islamabad visa center. "China embassy will not operate visa center in Lahore directly. It has outsourced it to a private company," he added.
"Solely the visa officer in Islamabad Chinese embassy has the authority to decide whether to issue the visa or not, as well as the validity period of the visa, the duration of stay and number of entries based on the applicant's specific circumstances. The visa officer may request the applicant to provide further supporting documents or supplementary materials as required or request the applicant for a live interview," he said.
According to information available to Chinese Embassy, those applicants who hold diplomatic or official passports, or who apply for Chinese diplomatic, official, courtesy or talent visas, may submit their applications directly to the Chinese Embassy after filling up application forms online at the Chinese Embassy website without appointments.
Embassy said that as per the arrangement of reciprocal exemption of visa fees between the People's Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there are no consular fees for visa charged from Pakistani citizens. The Visa Center will only charge service fees for visa applications. Additionally, the Visa Center will charge visa application fees from the third country's nationals, it added.
Diplomatic passport holders of Pakistan are exempted from visas and may stay up to 30 days in the mainland of China, up to 14 days in Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR of China respectively. Official passport holders of Pakistan are exempted from visas and may stay up to 30 days in the mainland of China and up to 14 days in Hong Kong SAR of China.
Approximately 4000 applications are received at Islamabad visa center on monthly basis. Last month, number went to 6000 because of peak season for student visa application.
It may be recalled that Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing had announced to open up visa facilitation center during his meetings with Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on May 16, current year.