On August 9, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), Qatar’s Ministry of Interior and the country’s flag carrier Qatar Airways announced what is an unprecedented move for a state of the Persian Gulf. Citizens of 80 countries no longer require a visa upon entry. The decision comes in the midst of the economic and diplomatic blockade imposed by the neighboring Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Nationals of a huge number of European countries including the whole EU, as well as citizens of many Latin American, a handful of Asian and other states will no longer need to apply and pay for a visa; instead, they will be able to receive a visa waiver upon arrival. Qatar associates the new policy mainly with QTA plans to make the Gulf state a world-class destination for tourists, though the timing of the policy is mainly due to the blockade, which affects tourism among other industries. In Qatar, entire public and private sectors depend on tourism and aviation industry in particular.
"With 80 nationalities eligible for a free visa waiver upon arrival, 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," commented the acting chairman of QTA, Hassan Al Ibrahim.
More routes for Qatar Airways
On the same day, the country’s largest carrier announced that new flights will be conducted over the waters controlled by Bahrain and UAE as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) helps the airline to negotiate a deal between the countries.
Qatar Airways is currently inspecting the need of one short route but gives no information on when it might be launched or where it goes, however, one route to the coast of Egypt was already dismissed and called “useless” by the airline.
The blockade imposed on June 2017 created a lot of difficulties for the Qatari airline. The countries behind the blockade have banned Qatar Airways from their airports thus creating huge issues for the inhabitants of Qatar, which mainly consists of foreigners who had to take other, more tiring, costly and lengthy routes to reach their homelands and other countries. This led to Qatar asking ICAO to step in and help solve the crisis.
The organization’s spokesman Anthony Philbin said that it is engaged with “various Middle Eastern states to ensure equitable access to airspace for Qatar-registered aircraft”.
“Some existing air route availability has been assured, and some new temporary or contingency routes have also been developed,” he added.
The waivers and lists of the countries
The costless waiver comes in two types. For citizens of 33 countries (almost all of which are European) the term of waiver’s validity is 180 days and allows staying in Qatar for no more than 90 days, though for the nationals of the other 47 countries the waiver will be credible for 30 days and grant permission to stay in the country throughout the whole period.
To get the first type of waiver, citizenship of one of the following countries is needed:
7. Czech Republic
Second type waiver can be received by the citizens of:
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