Immigration to Pakistan is the legal entry and settlement of foreign nationals in Pakistan. Immigration policy is overseen by the Interior Minister of Pakistan through the Directorate General Passports. Most immigrants are not eligible for citizenship or permanent residency, unless they are married to a Pakistani citizen or a Commonwealth citizen who has invested a minimum of PKR 5 million in the local economy.[1]

Based on the United Nations report World Population Policies 2005, the total immigrant population in Pakistan was estimated to be 3,254,000, representing 2.1% of the national population, and ranked 13th in the world.[2][3] According to the United Nations report International Migration Profiles 2002, the population of immigrants in Pakistan was little over 1 million in 1990 and around 1.4 million in 2000.[4]


Main articles: Americans in Pakistan, British people in Pakistan, and Canadians in Pakistan

As of 2009, an estimated 2.1% of the population of Pakistan had foreign origins. However, the number of immigrants in Pakistan recently grew sharply. Immigrants from South Asia make up a growing proportion of immigrants in Pakistan. The largest group of immigrants in Pakistan is Bangladeshi, followed by Afghan, Tajik, Uzbek, Turkmen, Indian, Sri Lankan, Burmese[5][6] and Briton.[7] Other expatriate communities in Pakistan are Chechens, Filipinos, Turks, Persian, Chinese,[8] Americans,[9] previously Bosnian refugees,[10] and many others. Migrants from different countries of Arab World, especially Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen, are in the thousands. Nearly all illegal migrants in Pakistan are Muslim refugees and they are accepted by the local population. There is no political support or legislation to deport these refugees from Pakistan.

Sheikh Muhammad Feroze, the chairman of the Pakistani Bengali Action Committee, claimed that there were 200 settlements of Bengali-speaking people in Pakistan, of which 132 are in Karachi. They are found in various areas of Pakistan such as Thatta, Badin, Hyderabad, Tando Adam and Lahore.[11]

Experts say that the migration of both Bengalis and Burmese (Rohingya) to Pakistan started in the 1980s and continued until 1998. Large scale Rohingya migration to Karachi made Karachi one of the largest population centres of Rohingyas in the world after Myanmar.[12] The Burmese community of Karachi is spread out over 60 slums in Karachi such as the Burmi Colony in Korangi, Arakanabad, Machchar colony, Bilal colony, Ziaul Haq Colony and Godhra Camp.[13]

Thousands of Uyghur Muslims have also migrated to the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, some of them fleeing political problems in Xinjiang, China.[14]


Further information: Afghan refugees and Afghans in Pakistan

See also: Anti-Afghan sentiment

As of December 2020, around 1,435,445 registered Afghan refugees reside and work in Pakistan.[15][16][17][18] Most of them reside in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, Pakistan.[16] They are expected to leave Pakistan and return to Afghanistan in the coming years.

In addition, about 500 Somalis, 60–80 Iraqis and 20–30 Iranians were reported to be temporarily residing in cities such as Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Karachi. Nearly all of these are asylum seekers waiting to be resettled in countries of the Americas, Europe or Oceania.

Illegal aliens

Further information: Alien (law)

The Express Tribune reported in January 2012 that there were 5 million illegal aliens in Pakistan. Around 2 million were Bangladeshis, 2.5 million were citizens of Afghanistan and the other 0.5 million were from various other places such as Africa, Iran, Iraq and Myanmar.[19]

Since early 2002, Pakistan's government took steps to determine the number of illegal aliens in its country. The National Alien Registration Authority (NARA) started registering illegal immigrants in January 2006. According to NARA, there were an estimated 1.8 million illegal aliens in Pakistan's commercial capital Karachi in 2007.[20] Others believe that there may be about 3.35 million illegal aliens in Pakistan.[21] As of January 2010, the number of illegal aliens in Karachi was estimated to be between 1.6 and 2 million.[22][23][24]

It was reported a decade ago that thousands of citizens from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan[25][26][27] were residing in Karachi without legal documentation.[28] This included thousands of Muslim students from Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia studying in the Pakistani madrasahs,[29] while thousands of women from Bangladesh and Burma were working as maids and prostitutes there; most of them are illegal aliens.[30]

According to some sources, thousands of radicals of Arab origin who entered the country illegally to fight in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion in 1979, and later against the US-led invasion in October 2001, still remain in the country.

Although the presence of illegal aliens in Pakistan is against the law, the Government of Pakistan has not made a serious effort to deport them until January 2010 when Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik asked illegal aliens to either leave or register themselves with the department concerned. This action was taken following the bomb attack and targeted killings of political activists in the city, against foreign militants operating in Pakistan.[31]

According to NARA, in 2009 there were foreign nationals from over 76 countries, mostly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, India and Burma illegally living and working in the country as labourers involved in construction businesses and others which require unskilled manpower,[32] whilst most of the illegal aliens are those who intend to use Pakistan as a transit country to immigrate to Western countries.[25]

See also


  1. ^ "Immigration Policy". Directorate General of Immigration & Passports. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  2. ^ "World Population Policies 2005", United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, March 2006. ISBN 978-92-1-151420-9.
  3. ^ "International Migration 2006", United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. United Nations Publication, No. E.06.XIII.6, March 2006.
  4. ^ "International Migration Profiles 2002 – Pakistan". Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations. October 2002. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
  5. ^ Homeless in Karachi – Outlook India
  6. ^ "SRI On-Site Action Alert: Rohingya Refugees of Burma and UNHCR's repatriation program – Burma Library". Archived from the original on 11 September 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  7. ^ "Brits Abroad". BBC News. 6 December 2006. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  8. ^ Fazl-e-Haider, Syed (11 September 2009), "Chinese shun Pakistan exodus", Asia Times, archived from the original on 13 September 2009, retrieved 11 September 2009((citation)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. ^ Private American Citizens Residing Abroad, Bureau of Consular Affairs, 1999, archived from the original on 26 March 2010, retrieved 17 September 2009
  10. ^ Rashid, Ahmed (26 June 1993). "Blonde Muslims find shelter in Pakistan: Refugees from Bosnia were given a warm welcome in a distant land, Ahmed Rashid writes from Islamabad". The Independent. London.
  11. ^ "Fringe Pakistan: Bengali-speaking Pakistanis demand right to vote". The Express Tribune. 10 March 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2016. Shaikh Muhammad Feroze, the chairman of the committee, said during a press conference on Friday that political parties and the government should acknowledge the sacrifices of their ancestors. 'We live in Sindh and feel proud to be called Sindhis rather than Bengalis. We appeal to Sindhi nationalists and Sindhis to help us in our struggle,' he added. He said that Bengali-speaking people were not given educational rights as they did not possess national identity cards. 'Our children can't get an education after matriculation because colleges ask for the identity cards but the National Database Registration Authority has never accepted us as Pakistani citizens.' Shaikh said that over three million Bengalis and Biharis were grateful to the government for accepting them as Pakistani citizens. 'We postponed a hunger strike planned for March 25 after the government made decisions,' he added. 'We can go on a hunger strike, if our rights are not given.' He claimed that there were 200 settlements of Bengali-speaking people across the country, including 132 in Karachi. They populate different parts of Pakistan, including Thatta, Badin, Hyderabad, Tando Adam and Lahore.
  12. ^ Rehman, Zia Ur (23 February 2015). "Identity issue haunts Karachi's Rohingya population". Dawn. Retrieved 26 December 2016. Their large-scale migration had made Karachi one of the largest Rohingya population centres outside Myanmar but afterwards the situation started turning against them.
  13. ^ Khan, Naimat (12 June 2015). "The Rohingyas of Karachi".
  14. ^ Jaffrey, Shumaila (12 August 2015). "How the Uighurs keep their culture alive in Pakistan". BBC. Retrieved 26 December 2016. Insa is one of a few thousand Uighur Muslims who live in Gilgit. The community is a mix of generations. Some left Xinjiang and the thriving trading town of Kashgar in 1949, while others are later arrivals. Map showing Kashgar and Gilgit. All say they were forced to leave as they were the victims of cultural and religious oppression in China.
  15. ^ Onward Movements of Afghan Refugees (PDF), United Nations High Commission for Refugees, March–April 2021, retrieved 20 August 2021
  16. ^ a b "Registered Afghan Refugees in Pakistan". United Nations High Commission for Refugees. 31 December 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  17. ^ "Government delivered first new Proof of Registration smartcards to Afghan refugees". United Nations High Commission for Refugees. 25 May 2021. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  18. ^ "UNHCR welcomes new government policy for Afghans in Pakistan". 2016. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  19. ^ "Five million illegal immigrants residing in Pakistan". The Express Tribune. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2016. ISLAMABAD: Around five million illegal immigrants have been residing in different cities of Pakistan for more than three decades. The illegal immigrants, around two million Bangladeshis, 2.5 million Afghanis and 0.5 million other nationals including Africans, Iranians, Iraqis and Myanmars, are currently living in Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and other cities, an official said on Monday.
  20. ^ "Govt orders action against alimmigrantsiens entering Pakistan". Daily Times. 2 December 2004. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  21. ^ "Illegal immigrants in Pakistan". National Alien Registration Authority. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  22. ^ Malik gives 30-day time to illegal immigrants (9 January 2010). "Malik gives 30-day time to illegal immigrants". The Nation. Retrieved 9 January 2010.((cite news)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ "'Get registered in 30 days or face the music': Clock starts ticking for illegal immigrants". Daily Times. 9 January 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  24. ^ "Immigrants in Karachi warned to get themselves registered in 30 days". Associated Press of Pakistan. 8 January 2010. Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  25. ^ a b Sikander Shaheen (13 January 2010). "Illegal immigrants a grave security threat". The Nation. Archived from the original on 16 September 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  26. ^ "Sindh Assembly should play its due role". Dawn. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  27. ^ "Illegal immigrants". Dawn. 7 October 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  28. ^ Fang Yang (8 January 2010). "Illegal immigrants get two weeks to leave Karachi: minister". Xinhua News Agency. Archived from the original on 6 November 2012. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  29. ^ B.Raman (15 August 2005). "TERRORISM IN SOUTHERN THAILAND: AN UPDATE". South Asia Analysis Group. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  30. ^ Aamir Latif (24 June 2007). "Immigrant Dream Shattered in Karachi". Islam Online. Archived from the original on 1 August 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  31. ^ Ruchika Talwar (16 January 2010). "Civil strife". The Indian Express. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  32. ^ "Steps planned to register illegal aliens". Dawn. 16 January 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2010.