We have each received dozens of visas, hundreds between as, at embassies all over the world, but since the takeover of the Taliban it’s a different kettle of fish and where and how to get visas has changed a lot. A lot of embassies just won’t issue visas now, and those that will tend to be charging a lot more than they used to.
The embassy in Islamabad is actually one of the very few that are now run by the Taliban , along with Moscow, Beijing, Doha and Ashgabat. Read more about who recognises the Taliban.
Some other embassies, such as the one in Dubai, have been issuing visas the whole time, but they are still run by the old government. The Taliban honours these visas too though.
We hadn’t been back to the embassy in Islamabad since the Taliban takeover, but taking into account price, speed and reliability, we now rate Islamabad as the best place to get the Afghan visa . Of course, if you’re coming from somewhere where the embassy is issuing visas and getting to Pakistan before your trip to Afghanistan isn’t overly convenient, then that still might be a better option for you, but if you do choose to get your Afghan visa at the embassy in Islamabad, here is our guide on how to navigate this embassy.
Getting the visa for Afghanistan in Islamabad is an experience.
What will I need to take?
First things first, you will need your passport (obviously), an Afghan visa form and a 2x2cm passport photo for the application.
Documents that can help show your journey, such as flight bookings, or a Letter of Invitation ( LOI, which SAIGA can help you get of course ) are good to bring along too, but they aren’t 100% needed. In these situations, however, bring as much as you can. Oh, and a pen!
When you arrive at the embassy, be aware that you cannot bring in any backpacks. We did see a woman with a handbag, but better to just bring your documents in a folder.
When you enter the compound there will be people everywhere crowding around tiny windows with different signs above them. Head to the sign that says “visas and education” . Push your way to the front, talk to the man behind the window and ask for a form. If you don’t push your way to the front, you’ll likely be there all day until the window is closed.
Fill in the form and then with all your documents head back to the same window. At this point they will treat you as a foreigner, which is very different to the locals at the embassy, and you’ll be directed to a side door where you will have to wait.
The Consul will likely want to meet with you and ask you why you are going to Afghanistan. And this isn’t a new thing since the Taliban take-over or anything – they’ve always asked about this, and especially single women might be met with a bit of concern. Don’t be intimidated by this process though, the people who work at the embassy, including the security are extremely helpful. So just be honest - you're going to Afghanistan for tourism. Why? Because it's an awesome country and you can't wait to see it! You will then be called into the embassy where you will have to hand over your mobile phone and you’ll be given a visitor’s lanyard, making you feel very important!
This is where you will likely have a casual meeting with the Taliban officials, with some tea of course. Once you have gone through formalities, they will instruct you to wait a little more. You will then pay your fee.
It is USD 80 for regular processing time which takes roughly three days, or you can pay an extra USD 50 for express. We applied on Thursday at 10am and had the visa by 12:30pm the following day, having paid the express fee. If you are in an extra rush they can also do it same day, but they said they were particularly busy at that time and it was better for them to do it for the following day. We had a little time so weren’t concerned about that.
Continue on your merry way, leaving your passport at the embassy. Go out for dinner, see the sights, do what you need to do.
You won’t have been given anything to say they have your passport. Just rock up at the time they say and now head to the window that says “reception" . You will say your name and your nationality and they will go get your passport. In our case we went back inside the compound to see the Consul who stamped and signed the visa in front of us and handed it over. Easy as pie!
It’s a good idea to get a driver to wait for you at the embassy to then drive you back as there are sometimes not many taxis around this area.
On Google maps it does say two locations. The correct one is on Luqman Hakeem Road .
When to go
Arriving around 9:30am is good, as this is when things start to happen, but you can arrive any time up until around 11:00am – after that they just won’t accept your documents and you’ll be asked to come back the following morning.
If you are a woman there is a separate waiting section where you must go. It would also be advisable to wear a headscarf when visiting the consulate.
When you are asked to wait inside the embassy just be patient. Sit back and let the world go on around you – someone will come see you eventually. You may have to wait for 30 minutes or more in a room by yourself. And with no phone!
If you get there and everything is too much, simply speak to one of the security guards and they will help you out. We cannot stress how friendly the people at this embassy were. Take a deep breath and come prepared!