Qatarof­fers visa-free en­try to peo­ple of 80 na­tions

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Doha, Qatar - 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 to the en­ergy-rich Gulf state which is to host foot­ball’s 2022 World Cup.

The waiver pro­gramme, which came into im­me­di­ate ef­fect, af­fects coun­tries of the EU’s Schen­gen zone, other West­ern states, Latin Amer­i­can and Asian na­tions.

Le­banon is the only Arab coun­try in the list pub­lished at the end of the news con­fer­ence, although the six-na­tion Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil of which Qatar is a mem­ber al­ready al­lows free­dom of move­ment by its na­tion­als.

Na­tion­als of 33 coun­tries can now re­side in Qatar for up to 90 days (mul­ti­ple-en­try) dur­ing a visa waiver pe­riod that is valid for 180 days and the other 47 states listed for up to 30 days (re­new­able for 30 days more). Mazrouei said 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. “This his­toric an­nounce­ment comes at a time of his­toric sig­nif­i­cance while some coun­tries in the re­gion have de­cided to close their skies and their bor­ders, Qatar has in­stead opened its bor­ders,” he said.

Re­gional king­pin Saudi Ara­bia as well as Bahrain, UAE and Egypt have since June 5 im­posed a boy­cott on Qatar, ac­cus­ing the emi­rate of fos­ter­ing Is­lamist ex­trem­ist groups and of close ties to Iran. Con­tin­ued on

Na­tion­als of 33 coun­tries can now re­side in Qatar for 90 days and the other 47 states listed for up to 30 days

Doha has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

The four Gulf na­tions have closed their land and sea bor­ders to Qatar and im­posed eco­nomic and air traf­fic re­stric­tions.

On Au­gust 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. Qatar has a pop­u­la­tion of 2.4mn, 90 per­cent of whom are for­eign­ers, in­clud­ing many from South Asia.

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