ISLAMABAD - The United States yesterday reduced the visa validity for Pakistanis and increased the fee for successful applicants.

A US embassy statement issued here said: “Effective January 21, 2019, an additional fee will be charged for H (Temporary Work Visa), I (Journalist and Media Visa), L (Intercompany Transfer Visa), and R (Religious Worker Visa) visas only if the visa application is approved and must be paid at the Embassy Islamabad or Consulate General Karachi prior to visa issuance.”

The fees, it added, will be: “I visas $ 32 and H, L, R visas $ 38. Additionally, the validity periods of the visas will decrease.

The new validity periods will be: a. I visas: 3 months, b. H visas: 12 months, c. L visas: 12 months and d. R visas: 12 months.”

The statement said during a recent worldwide review, the Department of State noted discrepancies between the US visa regime and the visa regimes of many countries, including Pakistan.

“Because Pakistan was unable to liberalize its visa regime for certain visa categories, the United States was required by US law on January 21st to reduce the visa validity and increase the visa fees to match Pakistan’s practices for similar visa categories,” added the statement.

Earlier, the US had started granting short-term visas to Pakistani diplomats and officials working in the US as Pakistan was not issuing long-term visas to the American counterparts.

Pakistan was issuing only three-month renewable visas to the American diplomats and officials who were working in Islamabad irrespective of their term.

However, the US had been issuing visas to the Pakistani diplomats according to their tenure but has now started matching the Pakistani practice.  Pakistan and the US governments recently agreed on the diplomatic visas and some US diplomats were even granted long term visas.

Last year, Pakistan and the US imposed new travel permission regime, restricting diplomats movement and revoking undue facilities across the country.

In may, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the embassy of the US that the US diplomatic cargo at Pakistani airports and ports will be strictly treated in accordance with the provisions of Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which does not provide an exemption from scanning.

The decision was taken reciprocating to travel permission regime introduced by the US government on Pakistani diplomats and officials.

The Pak-US ties have been frosty for several months. In January 2018, the US suspended security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund. State Department said the US had suspended ‘security assistance only’ to Pakistan. It clarified that Pakistan will be able to receive the suspended funding if it took ‘decisive actions’ against the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan said it was not dependent on US aid for its war on terror. The foreign ministry said Pakistan had fought the war against terrorism largely from its own resources “which has cost over $120 billion in 15 years.”

Pakistan claimed the money it had received from the US was mainly reimbursements for supporting US-led coalition forces after they invaded Afghanistan in 2001.