Qatar fights back with 80 country visa free scheme

Published:  16 Aug at 6 PM
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As the Gulf State diplomatic boycott of Qatar drags on with no apparent solution, the wealthy little emirate is fighting back.

Qatar’s latest weapon against the economic damage being caused by the June 5 boycott is a new law granting visa-free entry to citizens of no less than 80 world countries. According to the head of Qatar’s Tourism Authority Hassan al Ibrahim, the scheme will place Qatar as the region’s most open country for visitors. The move, approved by citizens and expats alike, is part of an effort to build up trade and diplomatic ties with countries outside the Gulf region by allowing easier access to business and other visitors.

At the present time, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain along with Yemen, the Libyan government and the Maldives have withdrawn transport as well as diplomatic links with Qatar, causing major problems to import/export businesses as well as to travellers. The new measure will attempt to reverse a slow decline in the numbers of people passing through or arriving in the emirate by encouraging tourism and air transportation.

Nationals arriving in Qatar from all European countries as well as the USA, New Zealand, India, Lebanon and South Africa can enter the country simply by showing a valid passport. Citizens of 33 of the 80 countries will be allowed stays of up to 180 days, with the remainder being allowed to stay for 30 days. The new scheme was introduced less than a fortnight after the emirate announced a plan to grant certain categories of expats permanent residency.

The residency offer is the first of its kind in the region, with the rest of the Gulf States moving in the opposite direction as regards foreigners’ rights to live and work. Saudization, Kuwatization and other such plans are aimed at vastly reducing and eventually eliminating all expat workers, supposedly in order to provide jobs for all Gulf State-born citizens.

Qatar’s citizenship offer is to be extended to expatriates who have made an ‘outstanding contribution’ to the emirate, as well as to the children of Qatari women with foreign national husbands. According to Reuters, at the present time foreign workers make up some 90 per cent of the country’s 2.7 million population.
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