Nepal deports foreign tandem paraglider pilots in clampdown in Pokhara

Andy Pag reports from Pokhara on a visa crisis for foreign tandem pilots in Nepal

Veteran Canadian tandem pilot Grey Hamilton's passport, stamped with an exit visa requiring his immediate departure from Nepal. Photo: Grey Hamilton

Veteran Canadian tandem pilot Grey Hamilton’s passport, stamped with an exit visa requiring his immediate departure from Nepal. Photo: Grey Hamilton

International tandem pilots working under tourist visas in Pokhara, Nepal are facing deportation for working illegally.

At least six pilots have already been deported, while an estimated 30 other tandem pilots have been required to submit their passports to the authorities.

The deported pilots include two Serbian, one Canadian, one Romanian, and two others.

The move comes against a background of confusion over new visa rules for foreigners working as tandem pilots in Pokhara.

To date, Nepal has no specific visa for overseas tandem pilots working seasonally in the country, and the use of a tourist visa, which costs about $2US a day, has been universally tolerated by authorities.

However, at the start of October this year the Nepali Airsports Association (NAA) asked all overseas tandem pilots working in Pokhara to submit their passports so they could be issued with a newly created working visa. The NAA told the foreign tandem pilots that the new working visa would cost the equivalent of $1 a day.

Pilots had expected the process to take three days, but almost two months later the passports are still being held by immigration in Kathmandu, a five hour drive from Pokhara.

Pilots who have requested the return of their passport from immigration have had to pay an $80 fine for working illegally. Their passports have also been stamped with an exit visa requiring their immediate departure and preventing re-entry until next year.

Many of the tandem pilots have also seen their valid tourist visas expire while in the custody of immigration, resulting in further fines of $3US for each day overstayed.

About 50 foreign tandem pilots work in Pokhara during the autumn and spring season, and tandem paragliding is a must-do activity for many of the thousands of trekkers and other tourists who pass through the city. As a gateway town to some of the most popular trekking routes in Nepal, Pokhara is one of the busiest tandem paragliding sites in the world.

The French embassy has reportedly told French tandem pilots working in Pokhara that they can not intervene because the pilots were technically breaking the law by working under a tourist visa.

Some of the foreign tandem pilots have voiced anger over what they feel is an aggressive strategy by immigration designed to oust them from seasonal jobs which they have held, in some cases, for years.

Meanwhile, the falling value of the Nepali rupee, restrictions on the number of flights tandem pilots can do, and road-block controls on the drive to launch have lead many pilots declare this will be their last season in Pokhara.

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6 Responses to “Nepal deports foreign tandem paraglider pilots in clampdown in Pokhara”

  1. Anagh Gautam
    November 27, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Very good move from our government. The government should take more strict action on the pilots working in Nepal in tourist visa. They should also put them in prison for breaking the rules. The pilots should think of their own country and think what their country will do to the people working in tourist visa. I would call it as a generous move by the government. If you want to earn money get the proper visa and work. We are not going to spare anyone working here in pokhara in tourist visa. Respect the rules or else face the concequnces. It’s our country ans if you are interested to follow the rules be here or else run to your country. You guys try to spoil our country by trying to give bribe not anymore guys.

  2. November 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Yeees, Anagh. Let’s leave Pokhara to the amazingly skilled, qualified, and *safe* local Nepalese pilots. Figure how many accidents it will take until the tourists realize that they’re risking their lives flying with guys without any sort of real training.

    Just driving down any road in Nepal, it’s pretty clear how the Nepalese do with traffic rules, and their driving ability. Poorer countries (like Cambodia) put Nepal to shame, in all of these regards. Why can’t you guys get your shit together? Imagine those same guys, in the air, your life in their hands?! Then look at the condition of the roads, the vehicles. Does that draw high expectations for how Nepalese will respect the flying equipment, that tourists trust their lives with?

    Nepal is beautiful. The Nepalese are a joke.

  3. Janardan
    November 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

  4. Anagh Gautam
    December 1, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    I will call the foreign pilots running the company in the name of nepali calling him as friend and partner in business as joke. You guys dont have the ability to survive in your countries during off season and you come here to exploit the local tourism of nepal and call nepalese as joke. Nepal is beautiful and the illegal western workers here are a joke.

  5. Mark
    December 2, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    Nepal is the Nepalese.
    They do not need there, all this “paragliding artists” from Europe, who use other people’s misery.

  6. Anagh Gautam
    December 8, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    Thanks mark. You put it very clear and in a easy way to understand.

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