Qatar’s Ministry of Interior, Qatar Tourism Authority and Qatar Airways have recently announced that citizens of 80 countries, including Australia, are no longer required to purchase a visa when entering the country.

Instead of paying the 1000QAR (AUD$35) visa on arrival fee, which permitted visitors to stay in the country for up to 30 days, Australians will now be issued a multi-entry waiver on arrival on the condition that they present a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and an onward or return ticket. While this wavier is valid for 30 days from the date of issue, Australians will also have the opportunity to extend it for an additional 30 days if required.

This amendment to Qatar’s visa policies follows the nation’s incentive, introduced last year, which made it possible for citizens of certain countries to arrange a 96 hour fee-free transit visa with Qatar Airways prior to travel. More recently, in May this year Qatar Airways launched another incentive which offered a free night of hotel accommodation for passengers stopping over in Doha, with the option to extend for an extra night for just USD$50.

It has been suggested that the new visa-waiver program has been introduced as a bid to boost tourism amid the travel ban imposed on Qatar by its neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Since the boycott was announced on the 5th of June this year, Qatar has been looking to strengthen its diplomatic and trade ties with nations beyond the Gulf. With Qatar due to host the soccer World Cup in 2022, the visa-waiver program is expected to provide a significant increase in tourist numbers for the region.

In a recent press conference in Doha, Hassanal-Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development officer at Qatar Tourism authority, told reporters that “The visa exemption scheme will make Qatar the most open country in the region.”

“This announcement is the latest in a line of developments to ensure Qatar continues to be considered as an attractive and open destination for both leisure and business travellers from around the world,” added Akbar Al Baker, Chief Executive of Qatar Airways Group.

Depending on the nationality of the visitor, there are two types of visa waivers available. The first waiver is multi-entry, valid for 180 days from the date of issue and entitles the holder to spend up to 90 days in the nation. The following countries are eligible:

Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

The second waiver is available for citizens of 47 countries. Also multi-entry, this waiver is valid for 30 days from the date of issue and may be renewed for an additional 30 days. The following countries are eligible:

Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Georgia, Guyana, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Suriname, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.

For more information about entry requirements in the Middle East or visiting Qatar, please get in touch with us or one of our Travel Experts today.