Qatar, isolated by its neighbours in a diplomatic crisis, on Wednesday introduced a visa-free entry programme for 80 nationalities to stimulate air transport and tourism.
“The visa exemption scheme will make Qatar the most open country in the region,” tourism department official Hassan al-Ibrahim told a news conference in Doha.
Interior ministry official Mohamed Rashed al-Mazrouei said that nationals of 80 countries would only need to present a valid passport for entry.
The waiver programme, which came into immediate effect, affects countries of the European Union’s Schengen zone, other Western states, Latin American and Asian nations.
Nationals of 33 countries will now be authorised to reside in Qatar for 180 days and the other 47 states listed for up to 30 days, periods which are renewable a single time.
Mazrouei said the countries were selected on the basis of security and economic considerations, or for the buying power of their nationals.
Qatar Airways chief Akbar al-Baker said his carrier, which this year plans to extend its network to 62 new destinations, would be a primary beneficiary.
On Aug 3, Qatar created a new permanent residents status for certain groups of foreigners, including those who have worked for the benefit of the emirate, a first for the Gulf.
Under the new rules, children with a Qatari mother and a foreign father can benefit from the new status, along with foreign residents who have “given service to Qatar” or have “skills that can benefit the country”.
Those deemed eligible for the new status will be afforded the same access as Qataris to free public services, such as health and education.
According to Qatar Airways website, 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.
1. Austria 2. Bahamas 3. Belgium 4. Bulgaria 5. Croatia 6. Cyprus 7. Czech Republic 8. Denmark 9. Estonia 10. Finland 11. France 12. Germany 13. Greece 14. Hungary 15. Iceland 16. Italy 17. Latvia 18. Liechtenstein 19. Lithuania 20. Luxembourg 21. Malta 22. Netherlands 23. Norway 24. Poland 25. Portugal 26. Romania 27. Seychelles 28. Slovakia 29. Slovenia 30. Spain 31. Sweden 32. Switzerland 33. Turkey.
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.
1. Andorra 2. Argentina 3. Australia 4. Belarus 5. Bolivia 6. Brazil 7. Brunei 8. Canada 9. Chile 10. China 11. Colombia 12. Ecuador 13. Panama 14. Costa Rica 15. Georgia 16. Guyana 17. Hong Kong 18. India 19. Indonesia 20. Ireland 21. Japan 22. Kazakhstan 23. Lebanon 24. Azerbaijan 25. Macedonia 26. Malaysia 27. Maldives 28. Mexico 29. Moldova 30. Monaco 31. New Zealand 32. Paraguay 33. Peru 34. Russia 35. San Marino 36. Singapore 37. South Africa 38. South Korea 39. Suriname 40. Cuba 41. Thailand 42. Ukraine 43. United Kingdom 44. United States 45. Uruguay 46. Vatican City 47. Venezuela.
Qatar has a population of 2.4 million people, 90 percent of whom are foreigners, including many from south Asia working in construction.