QATAR. Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (MoI), Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and Qatar Airways today announced that Qatar will allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries, effective immediately.

In a tremendous boost to the country’s tourism (and travel retail) sectors, 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. In the second case, the visitor is entitled 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.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive His Excellency 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 Group Chief Executive His Excellency Akbar Al Baker: “This is a momentous occasion for Qatar”

“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 QTA Chief Tourism Development Officer Hassan Al Ibrahim, 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.

“Easing entry to Qatar is a key enabler for the growth of Qatar’s tourism industry.” (Left to right) QTA Chief Tourism Development Officer Hassan Al Ibrahim; Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive His Excellency Akbar Al Baker; and Brigadier Mohammed Al Ateeq, Director General of the Department of Passport and Expatriates Affairs at the Ministry of Interior

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, 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,” Al Ibrahim said. “With this announcement, we are already turning the pages of the Next Chapter of Qatar’s journey towards 2030.

“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.”

(Above and below) At a packed press conference in Doha today, the State of Qatar was described as “the most open country in the region” following the extensive overhaul of the visa system

Brigadier Mohammed Al Ateeq, Director General of the Department of Passport and Expatriates Affairs at MoI, commented, “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% increase in the number of stopover visitors during the first six months of 2017, compared with the same period last year.

Details of the visa waiver programme

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