“Nepal’s Immigration System Is Modern”Kedar Neupane

The immigration systems around the world are modernizing. In that context, Kedar Neupane, Director General of Department of Immigration, spoke to KESHAB POUDEL highlighting how Nepal’s immigration system is also modernizing to keep pace with the glob

May 5, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.9,No 20,May 6,2016 (Baisakh 24,2073)

Complaints are often heard that the visa issuing process is lengthy at the immigration. What do you say?

So far as issuing the visa from our Department is concerned, it is just a matter of an hour given the application with required documents. Once a foreigner applies through our online service, submitting required documents, he/ she receives the visa on time.

It is reported that foreign investors are reluctant to invest in Nepal due to the lengthy immigration process. How do you look at this statement?

So far as issuing the working visa is concerned, one needs to fulfill certain procedures. For the working visa, there is need to fulfill some requirements. Once investors come with the necessary documents, with letters from the Department of Industry and the Department of Labor, working visa is granted by our department. We are issuing a number of working visa daily on the basis of the recommendation of the Department of Industry.

How do you say that?

You can observe our systems and procedures. As all our systems are online, they are transparent. There is a well established process and nobody needs to wait for a long time. Our system is like that of all the systems prevailing in the world, even in the advanced countries. The functioning of the department has changed. You have to understand that different departments have different systems and they are not the same in terms of their work delivery.

How do you see the investment in the Department?

Compared to work, the investment in the department is negligible. Although there is a nominal investment, we are motivating our employees to work. They are working with their own spirit.

Which visa does your department issue the most?

We issue the highest number of tourist visa. Then comes the business visa. We apply the same method to issue all kinds of visa. In some cases, they don’t need recommendations. For student visa, enrolment papers and recommendations of concerned university and Ministry of Education are required. The process of preparing the documents from concerned ministry may require time. However, Department of Immigration issues visa as soon as it receives applications with the required documents.

What is it like for foreigners working in INGOs and NGOs?

The Department of Immigration treats all its clients equally. Once a foreigner working in INGO or NGO comes with the necessary papers and recommendations from Social Welfare Council and Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, we issue the working visa. I assure all foreigners that they can receive the visa and other permits within an hour of submitting applications and documents to our office.

How do you see the foreign passport holder children of Nepalese parents?

In many countries around the world, citizenship is granted on the basis of birth. Many Nepalese children who were born in these countries during the period of their parents' study or work hold foreign passports. On the basis of relations, the children return to Nepal with their parents. With the certification of relationship from Village Development Committee or Municipality about the children and parents, the department issues free visa till the children become adults. If they miss the deadline to renew visa, we charge fines. There are problems in understanding. The state cannot charge money to minors or children. In some cases, Nepalese parents bring their children with foreign passport. However, they do not follow the procedures for long and when the children show willingness to return to foreign country. In that situation, there appear problems.

What do such parents need to do?

All the parents of children with foreign passport must understand that they need to follow immigration procedures to retain the foreign passport and citizenship. If they stay without renewal of visa, it will be illegal. We issue free visa to minors. For adult and old people who overstay in Nepal, there is a fine for Rs. 200.00 each day and for minors it is just Rs. 50.00 per day.

A lot of reports appear in media that foreigners who marry Nepali women are facing difficulty to obtain visa. What is the state?

As I have already mentioned to you, there is no such thing happening. If a person applies with the marriage relations registration certificate issued by District Administration Office, he or she will receive the visa as per our procedures. We provide marriage visa. Foreign male who legally married Nepali women or foreign women who marry Nepali men do not need other documents except the marriage certificate issued by District Administrative Office.

What about the state of visa to Non-Resident Nepalese (NRN). Don’t NRNs need visa?

Here are some problems. Due to disinformation and misunderstanding, some NRN friends are facing problems. There is a misunderstanding that those who hold the NRN card do not require visa. Some NRNs understood NRN card as a substitute to visa. Nepalese foreign passport holders need visa and it is mandatory.

What benefits are there in carrying the NRN card?

The visa fee is waived to those who hold the NRN card. If they overstay without renewing visa, they should be fined. As there is so much misunderstanding about NRN card and Visa, NRN colleagues should make efforts to convey the message to their members about the status of NRN card. NRN card is a basis for visa and it is not a substitute of visa. We are unable to inform the concerned well on the matter. As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nepalese diplomatic missions abroad are issuing NRN cards, they should inform the card holders about the matter. There is the need to disseminate the information.  It will greatly help NRN.

What are the problems of Nepalese leaving for foreign countries?

Many Nepalese are leaving the country to work abroad. Those who want to leave the country for work, they need to secure labor permit from the Department of Foreign Employment. Only after that they are eligible to leave the country. In many cases, we see people are leaving the country with tourists or visitor visa. Given our economic condition, the government needs to consider whether tens of thousands of Nepalese can go to foreign countries for tourism. As our constitution guarantees the right to free movement of people, we cannot prevent individuals leaving the country with valid ticket and visa. However, we need to take certain steps to prevent people leaving to Central American, Latin American and Caribbean countries, and countries of South Pacific with tourism purpose.  Recently, there was news regarding Nepalese stranded in countries like Ecuador, Brazil, Panama and Mexico.

How difficult is it now to manage human mobility?

Managing human mobility is a major issue now. As human mobility is also related to trafficking, it is very difficult to distinguish between forms of mobility. We are strictly watching the movement of individuals now. It is the responsibility of the state to protect the citizens of Nepal. In the past, we were concerned about trafficking of women and children but now-a-days even the boys are trafficked. There is a tendency among the people to leave the country at any cost and pay the money to middleman as much as they demand to sneak to European countries and United States and Canada. We are carefully monitoring the news reports about stranded Nepalese in the Central and Latin American, Caribbean countries.  Many Nepalese are stranded in Africa and Gulf countries also. Our mindset is wrongly directed. Some people are leaving Nepal with good jobs back home expecting more money in foreign countries. We need to correct our perspectives on foreign employment.

Do you see other actors in the foreign employment?

In the past, only foreign employment agencies used to send workers abroad. Now-a-days, even education consultancies are sending Nepalese abroad. There is the need to regulate the education consultancies. The number of Nepalese leaving through education consultancy is increasing.

Nepalese constitution guarantees the right to mobility of every Nepali. However, different agencies working in TIA and other immigration points are reportedly harassing people, particularly women. How do you look at this?

There are many agencies working in TIA. There are police personnel, intelligence agency people, and foreign employment representatives. We are not stopping any individuals who are leaving with full information and valid documents. However, in many cases our officers find the people without any knowledge about the destinations and without knowledge about where they are leaving for. In that case, it is the duty of the immigration official to stop the person. Many even don’t know the airlines. They are like bonded. We discourage such people.

It is reported that there are more than 200 foreign refugees seeking political asylum. How do you see the state of such refugees?

Our immigration and other countries' immigration is different if immigration is seen as a border security issue. Our problem is with border security. Many refugees who are seeking asylum enter Nepal through the open border. As Nepalese do share similar facial features with citizens of Bangladesh, Myanmar or other people even from Middle East, they can easily sneak to our country. Other issue is related in issuing on-arrival visa for many countries on air. Many enter Nepal by air with all documents and once they enter Nepal they seek political asylum from United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The time has come to review the current system of on-arrival visa. Nepal is currently providing on-arrival visa for all except 12 countries listed. We have to change our mindset that all are tourists. Immigration is related to national security but it is related to tourism in Nepal.

How is the tourist visa given?

As a tourism-based country, Nepal has always seen a rush for tourist visa. If a person who comes to us for extension of tourist visa without overstaying in Nepal, their visas are extended within a period of less than two hours. The process will be a little bit lengthy in case of overstaying. To make the visa procedure shorter, we have been making efforts to limit the number of officials involved in the process. We are delegating power to immigration officers so that they can take the final decision. It is helping us to make our service efficient and effective. As almost all the processes of visa are currently under the online system, it is getting more efficient.  We have systems and applications.

Then, why are people complaining about the immigration issue?

People are still under the hangover of the decade-old system and they are yet to change their mindset. Only by visiting the Department, one can see the drastic transformation at the department. 

What is the main function of the department?

Our role is to regulate the movements of foreigners into, within and from Nepal. Similarly, the movements of Nepali national from and into Nepal are within its domain. The Department of Immigration (DOI) and Immigration Offices (IO) were established for the regulation of the movements of foreigners and Nepali nationals. These institutions are set up under the organizational hierarchy of the Ministry of Home Affairs/ Government of Nepal (GON). 

On what legal regime is your organization operating?

Nepal Immigration is operationalized under the following legal instruments, Immigration Act, 2049 BS, Immigration Rules, 2051 BS and Immigration Procedure, 2065.

How does your organization functions?

Along with the Department of Immigration, located at the capital city Kathmandu of Nepal, there is an Immigration Office at Tribhuvan international Airport and Pokhara (Kaski) each. There are six Immigration Offices in the southern border points with India, namely, Kakarbhitta (Jhapa), Birgunj(Parsa), Belhia (Bhairahawa), Nepalgunj (Banke), GaddaChauki (Kailali) and Mehendranagar respectively from east to west of Nepal. Besides, two Immigration Offices Tatopani (Sindhupalchowk) and Rashuwagadi (Rashuwa) are located at the northern border points with China.

The department is responsible to take all immigration related work including   Tourist Visa Extension, Non Tourist Visa (Business, Study, Marriage, working and Residential), and Trekking Permits, Authentication of arrival and departure and Criminalization on violation of immigration laws

How can you regulate the movement of the people?

We regulate the movement of foreigners and Nepali nationals under the Immigration Acts, the Immigration Rules, and the Immigration Procedures.

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