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Qatar announces visa-free entry for nationals of 80 countries

Qatar has announced a programme to allow visa-free entry for nationals of 80 countries. This initiative aims to boost air transport and tourism, amidst the two-month boycott imposed on Qatar by its neighbours.

Nationals from dozens of countries in Europe and elsewhere, including India, South Africa, New Zealand, Lebanon, and the United States will now receive tourist visas on arrival to Qatar, which hosts the Soccer World Cup in 2022.

Lebanon is the only Arab country in the list, although the six nations of GCC, in which Qatar is also a member, already allows freedom of movement by its nationals. Nationals of 33 countries would be permitted to stay for 180 days, while the remaining 47 nationalities would be allowed to stay for upto 30 days. The countries were chose on the basis of security and economic considerations for the buying power of their nationals.

The Chief Tourism Development Officer at Qatar Tourism Authority told reporters at press conference in Doha that the visa exemption scheme will make Qatar the most open country in the region.

Oil giant Saudi Arabia, together with Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE imposed a boycott on Qatar on 5th June and suspended all transport links with the country, accusing it of supporting terrorism and of close ties to Iran.

However, Doha denies the charges, and since the boycott began, Qatar has been trying to build up its diplomatic and trade ties beyond the Gulf region. For instance, on 3rd August Qatar created a new permanent residents status for certain groups of foreigners, including those who have worked for the benefit of the emirate, and this is a first for the Gulf.

Now, this visa scheme is the latest in a series of measures aimed at preparing Qatar for better economic independence in the long-term. Efforts, led by Kuwait are still underway to resolve the rift.

Qatar has a population of 2.4million people, with 90 percent of them being foreigners, including many from South Asia working in construction sector.

Posted on 17/8/2017

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