The FINANCIAL — Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (MoI), Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and Qatar Airways on August 9 announced that Qatar will allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries, effective immediately.
Citizens of those countries wishing to visit Qatar will no longer need to apply or pay for a visa; instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued free-of-charge at the port of entry, upon presentation of a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket.
Depending on the nationality of the visitor, the waiver will either be valid for 180 days, from the date of issue, and allow the visitor to spend a total of 90 days in Qatar (multiple-entry waiver); or it will be valid for 30 days from the date of issue and entitle the visitor to spend up to 30 days in Qatar with the possibility of applying for an extension of the waiver for an additional 30 days (multiple-entry waiver).
These developments come as part of a series of measures that Qatar has taken to facilitate visitor access to the country. Last month, Qatar launched an e-visa platform, www.qatarvisaservice.com, through which travellers of all nationalities can apply for tourist and visitor visas with more efficiency and ease. The country is also considering further enhancements to its visa policy, such as waiving visa requirements for holders of a residence permit or a valid visa from the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the Schengen countries. This waiver would allow eligible visitors to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation by completing a simple online application at least 48 hours prior to travel, according to Qatar Airways.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Today’s announcement places the State of Qatar as the most open country in the region. This is a momentous occasion for Qatar, making the number of nationalities eligible to enter our country without a visa the highest in region, which is something that we are very proud of.
“Qatar Airways is the patriotic flag carrier for the State of Qatar and as such we are extremely honoured to bring millions of people each year to our beautiful, welcoming and historic country. This important initiative from the Ministry of Interior and Qatar Tourism Authority will provide an opportunity to welcome even more visitors, from even more countries, to experience the many exciting attractions that await them.”
According to Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development officer at QTA, visa facilitation is a critical component of the national tourism sector strategy, which QTA is currently reviewing in partnership with stakeholders from the public and private sectors. With renewed focus by the country’s leadership on diversifying the national economy, a revised strategy which empowers various players to boost the growth of tourism is set to be launched on 27 September 2017, when Qatar hosts the official celebrations of World Tourism Day.
“Easing entry to Qatar is a key enabler for the growth of Qatar’s tourism industry. With this announcement we are already turning the pages of the Next Chapter of Qatar’s journey towards 2030,” commented Al Ibrahim. “Together with our partners in the public and private sectors, we have examined all of the elements needed to create a smooth and enticing experience that can attract visitors from around the world. There is no doubt that facilitating and streamlining access at all ports of entry are key factors in creating a positive first and lasting impression of Qatar.”
Al Ibrahim added, “With 80 countries eligible for a visa waiver, Qatar is now the most open country in the region and we are delighted to invite visitors to discover our renowned hospitality, cultural heritage and natural treasures.”
Brigadier Mohammed Al Ateeq, Director General of the Department of Passport and Expatriates Affairs at MoI, commented, “We are very pleased to announce that nationals of 80 countries are now eligible for a visa waiver and can enter Qatar without requiring any prior visa arrangements. Together with our partners at QTA and Qatar Airways, we have been working to enhance our country’s visa policies and implement solutions to better facilitate travel to Qatar. Further enhancements are being studied and we look forward to announcing them in due course.”
In November 2016, Qatar introduced a free transit visa, which allows passengers of all nationalities transiting in Qatar for a minimum of five hours to stay in Qatar for up to 96 hours (four days). In May 2017, QTA launched +Qatar, an initiative to promote the country as a stopover destination, with the national carrier, Qatar Airways. These measures, along with intensified international marketing, have resulted in a 39 per cent increase in the number of stopover visitors during the first six months of 2017, compared with the same period last year.
As part of Qatar Airways’ and QTA’s combined efforts to boost tourism in the country, the award-winning airline has accelerated its global expansion plans, and recently announced the launch of a number of new destinations that it is adding to its network by the end of August including Kiev, Ukraine and Prague, Czech Republic. Yesterday, the airline launched Sohar, in the Sultanate of Oman. Qatar Airways also recently launched a direct service to Dublin, Republic of Ireland; Nice, France and Skopje, connecting even more people to more places, and making it easier than ever for passengers to visit Qatar as part of their journey.
The below section details the new visa waiver eligibility for citizens of the 80 countries.
Entry to Qatar is approved at the sole discretion of Qatar’s Ministry of Interior.
A) Nationals of the following 33 countries will not require prior visa arrangements and can obtain a visa waiver upon arrival in Qatar. The waiver will be valid for 180 days from the date of issuance and entitle its holder to spend up to 90 days in Qatar, during either a single trip or on multiple trips.
7. Czech Republic
B) Nationals of the following 47 countries will not require prior visa arrangements and can obtain a visa waiver upon arrival in Qatar. The waiver will be valid for 30 days from the date of issuance and entitle its holder to spend up to 30 days in Qatar, during either a single trip or on multiple trips. This waiver may be extended for a further 30 days.
14. Costa Rica
17. Hong Kong
31. New Zealand
35. San Marino
37. South Africa
38. South Korea
43. United Kingdom
44. United States
46. Vatican City