KATHMANDU: Call it a fate of an anxious Nepali citizen who yearns to travel abroad at his/her own expense not being able to set his foot on a foreign land due to the government’s travel restriction.
Those enthusiastic middle-class Nepalis who have a desire to see the world before they die, and want to make sure they don’t miss an opportunity will be restricted to leave the country if they do not have a bank balance and their income is less than Rs 10 lakhs per annum.
The recommendation of some “experts” to bar Nepalis from flying abroad is just the tip of an iceberg in terms of what people have already endured over the last couple of years in the pretext of a stubborn policy.
In a report submitted by a task force formed to recommend the government concerning the provisions of visit visa and the problems and solutions created by it, the provision of income of at least one million rupees per annum can only fly abroad on a visit visa.
The report also stipulates that a person going abroad should have at least Rs 5 lakhs in his/her bank account.
According to the Ministry of Finance, the annual per capita income of Nepalis is 1,139 US dollars that is the average annual income of Nepalis is only about Rs 140,000.
Phanindra Mani Pokharel, the coordinator of the task force and Joint Secretary at the Home Ministry, said, “We have made a provision to allow only those who earn minimum Rs 1 million annually and those who have Rs 500,000 in the bank account to go on a visit visa.”
The annual income has been fixed at Rs 1 million only if the other criteria set by the government are not met. However, ordinary people who want to go abroad will be barred from flying abroad.
Senior Advocate Dinesh Tripathi said that this provision violates the human rights of the people to travel freely.
He said that it is absurd for the government to impose such restrictions on travel.
In the report, it has been suggested to keep the provision of having foreign travel records before going on a visit visa.
The report states that a person who is certified as having spent at least two years in a foreign country is eligible for a visit visa.
Due to this, the government has taken away the fundamental right of the general public to travel for the first time, said Tripathi.
Likewise, students with a minimum higher secondary level or similar technical-vocational skills, certified by an official body, and have higher education are allowed on visit visas. Invitations and sponsorships are offered on a visit visa.
Recommended persons with certified documents from the mission in the destination country, government employees, representatives of international trading banks and financial organizations and visiting representatives of international non-governmental organizations, representatives of trade associations importing and exporting goods in Nepal, business companies, firm operators, businessmen will also be able to fly easily.
According to the report of the task force, it is necessary to get the prior approval of the Immigration Department when going to the Gulf countries and Malaysia by forming its own member/staff group under the leadership or sponsorship of the organization established as per the prevailing law.
Those on the self-declared list of travel commitments and responsibilities will be allowed to visit after the tour program is scheduled by the travel agency, but prior approval from the Immigration Department is required in the case of Gulf countries and Malaysia.
The proposal has further complicated the corona-laden tourism sector and Nepalis traveling abroad, Bon Travel’s Senior Correspondence Samyojana Kshetri told Khabarhub. She said that from now on, only the corporate sector and businessmen can go on foreign trips.
It is also proposed that the official representatives of the organizations affiliated to the international network in industrial and commercial activities and the manpower entrepreneurs who go for market promotion of foreign employment business will be able to visit without any hassles.
In the case of players and artists visiting Gulf countries, Malaysia, African countries, and high-risk countries, there should be a person involved in the list who has received an official invitation or sponsorship from the organizers.
According to Sudhir Kumar Upadhyaya, general secretary of the Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents, such conditions deprive the general public of Nepalis trying to go abroad by depositing some money.
He is of the view that the government should include the concerned stakeholders in formulating new policies and rules.
He said that the travel agency working in this field was more embarrassed when the government brought a new proposal without discussing the related persons or organizations.
He said that it was impractical for the government to take such measures to control human trafficking in foreign countries in search of foreign employment. He told Khabarhub that the government should consider another option to stop human trafficking.
Similarly, for women, it has been recommended to include additional conditions and provisions in the report.
The task force has also suggested that women traveling abroad should have additional conditions such as documents proving that they have been living abroad for at least two years, an educational certificate of at least +2 or so passed from a recognized educational institution, English or the language of the destination country.
The report includes four separate points under the heading ‘Additional Issues for Women to Visit on Visit Visas’.
The task force has suggested that for a woman to go abroad on a visit visa, mother, father, mother-in-law, children, husband/wife, siblings or a person who has a relationship with the same family and those traveling with the same relatives should submit proof of relation.
In the report, visa and documents sent by relatives in the destination country for sponsoring the visit and documents proving that their relatives are abroad, at least two years spent in a foreign country, certified person and higher secondary level formal education or technical vocational skills, certification from competent authorities.
It is mentioned that a woman would be permitted to go on a visit visa if she submits her educational documents.
The recommendation of the task force to have additional provisions for women other than the prescribed conditions is contrary to the constitutional right guaranteed by Article 18 of the Constitution of Nepal 2072 BS.
Clause 1 of the article states that “all citizens shall be equal before the law and no one shall be deprived of the equal protection of the law.” Clause 2 states that in the application of the common law, there shall be no discrimination on the grounds of origin, religion, caste, creed, sex, physical condition, disability, health status, marital status, pregnancy, economic status, language, or region or ideological belief or any other such basis.
Article 3 also states that citizens will not be discriminated based on gender.
However, there is more restriction for women traveling abroad on visit visas.
The task force formed under the chairmanship of Home Ministry Joint Secretary Phanindra Mani Pokhrel on January 25 submitted the report to Home Minister Bal Krishna Khad on March 2.
Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Shesh Narayan Poudel, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security, Harish Chandra Poudel, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bhim Prasad Dhakal, Senior Superintendent of Police, Prakash Chandra Adhikari, Deputy Secretary, Immigration Department, and Dinbandhu Subedi were in the taskforce.
Similarly, the responsibility of formulating new procedures has been given to the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labor.
Home Joint Secretary Pokharel said that the report will be implemented after this procedure.
In the report, it is suggested to modify and implement the existing criteria and procedures related to visit visas, improve the complexity in the labor approval process and make it as simple, transparent, and fast as possible, and bring the person and organization facilitating the visit visa under the law.
Similarly, it has been suggested in the report to take action as per Section 44 of the Foreign Employment Act 2064 to discourage the foreign employment entrepreneurs who have obtained permission for foreign employment from sending people abroad on visit visas or other means without obtaining a labor permit.