How to apply for a Pakistani visa in Brussels
Most people don’t consider Pakistan on their bucket list of absolute must-see travel destinations. The country is often associated with Muslim extremism and usually portrayed as a terrorist sponsoring nation by western media. There have undeniably been some serious problems in the past and certain places are still better avoided by foreigners even today, but it’s been years since the last terrorist attack against tourists and the situation has improved a lot since then. Yes, you will have to endure endless police and military checkpoints (bring a million passport copies!), but they’re there for your own safety, and the service men will often invite your for chai, to share meals or (if you’re into that kinda thing) hold their Kalashnikovs for a selfie. Apart from all the guns you’ll see while strolling the streets Pakistan is for the most part an incredibly beautiful place. Especially the Northern Areas around Gilgit-Baltistan in the Himalayas and Karakoram mountain ranges are spectacular, hosting some of the most genuinely hospitable people on the planet. But how on earth do you get a visa for this place?
Visa requirementsOne of the most important things to take into account when thinking about applying for a Pakistan visa is the fact that you can only apply in your country of origin or official country of residence. Although a very annoying little rule for long term overlanders since the visa is usually only valid for 3 months after issuing, many exceptions are known of people receiving visas with extended validity. Five or even eight months is not uncommon, so try your luck in the embassy before scratching Pakistan off your to-visit list! Every embassy is different and in certain places it’s easier to get a visa while others make it extra hard. I found it surprisingly easy to apply for and receive a visa for Pakistan in the Brussels embassy.
Visa requirements Pakistan embassy Brussels
- filled out visa form (download from the embassy’s website)
- copy of passport information page
- copy of Belgian ID
- LOI (letter of invitation)
- 3 passport photographs
How to get an LOIThe most time consuming part of your visa application consists of getting an LOI, after which obtaining the visa itself is very straightforward. Getting an LOI is possible even if you don’t know anyone in Pakistan willing to ‘invite‘ you. Some local tourist agencies are willing to provide you with an LOI without expecting you to actually book a tour with them. Prices for this service vary, according to my research, between 50€ and 120€. I fully encourage you to use the travel agency recommended by well-known Silk Road travel website Caravanistan.com. You won’t regret it. They provide very fast email answering and correct delivery of the documents once payment is received. The price, as of April 2018, is 7800PKR (55€).
Requirements for the LOIAfter my initial email to the travel agency recommended by Caravanistan a very fast answer arrived asking for following info:
- Arrival and departure dates to and from Pakistan (not more than 30 days)
- Actual places of visit (This MUST be an original day-to-day plan)
- Scanned copy of passport
- Residential address
- Occupation and its address (if you’re unemployed fake one)
- Address of Embassy/Consulate (in this case Brussels embassy)
- Personal Data:
- Full name(As on your passport)
- Passport number
- Date of Birth
Which itinerary to give for obtaining the LOI?While considering an itinerary to provide the travel agency to get the LOI I suggest avoiding mentioning places that are considered unsafe and could be grounds for refusal of your visa. Don’t mention Baluchistan, Peshawar or any of the border areas with Afghanistan. Also avoid to mention you’re going to the Northern Areas like Gilgit-Baltistan. Doing this may result in the government asking you for further proof of booking an expensive specialised mountaineering tour and will only complicate the visa process. Even if you’re intention is to arrive over land from either China, India or Iran it is wise to ‘forget’ to mention this in your application. My first application got denied because I mentioned entering the country overland from Iran. Brussels embassy usually doesn’t require proof of in- or outbound flights, so just list Islamabad or Lahore airport as your port of entry and exit. I filled out the following itinerary: Day 1-7: Islamabad Day 8-9: Taxila Day 10-13: Rawalpindi Day 14-16: Faisalabad Day 17-20: Multan Day 21-23: Bahawalpur Day 24-29: Lahore Day 30: leave from Islamabad international airport
Paying for the LOIThis is perhaps the most annoying step of the whole visa process. Paying by bank transfer is possible, however the bank’s international transaction fee is higher than the actual visa fee charged by the travel agency. Therefore, only two payment options are accepted as they are the easiest, fastest and cheapest options for small visa fee transactions:
- western union
- TransferWise app
Paying with TransferWiseTransferWise is a convenient app to transfer money between international bank accounts without paying for high conversion costs. How it works:
- Download the app on your mobile device
- Follow the necessary steps to register, including providing the app with a picture of the front and backside of your ID
- Wait until your ID gets verified (this took 4 working days in my case. You get a message when you’re ready to start using the app).
- Set up the transfer: insert the amount, your home currency and the foreign currency (in this case 7800 PKR)
- Press Send
- Wait until the money arrives (this took 2 days in my case)