The Ministry of Interior, Qatar Tourism Authority and Qatar Airways had announced the visa-free entry to citizens of 80 countries on August 9.
The new facility has been a blessing for expatriates, especially for Indians who form the largest expatriate community in the country. Many relatives and friends of the Indian expatriates have started using this facility, increasing the flow of visitors to Qatar.
“This is great news and several people have started to make use of this facility. Earlier, people had to go through several procedures for getting a visa for a short period. Now it is so simple and above all there is no need to pay any fee for the visa,” said Mohamed Quthb Babu, a long-time Doha resident whose friends recently arrived in Doha using the new facility.
“I just needed two of my friends to reach here urgently. If I apply for a visit or tourist visa it may take one or two days for approval. Therefore, I asked them to explore this possibility and they arrived here without any hassle,” Babu said.
According to Babu, if anyone comes as a tourist, they need to produce a return air ticket, hotel booking as well as proof of money for expenses. Those coming at the invitation of an organisation or company have to provide details of the company. And those coming as a guest of a resident in the country have to give details of the individual in Qatar, in addition to a return ticket.
Haroon Rashid, who travelled from Kochi to Doha on August 19, said there was no problem in getting the visa stamped at the Doha airport. “When I reached Hamad International Airport, I produced my passport, return ticket as well as my hotel booking. The immigration official asked me if I had enough money to stay in the country. I had more than QR5,000 with me. Immediately the visa was stamped and the whole process was completed within five minutes,” Rashid said.
“However, there was some confusion at the Cochin International Airport. I travelled by Jet Airways and the airline staff checked me in and gave me the boarding pass. But the immigration officials said that they were not aware of the new facility. But after consulting with higher officials, they allowed me in,” he said.
A Doha resident said his family members are coming for Eid al-Adha using the same facility.
“I had been making plans for sometime to bring my parents here. Now that the government has launched this new facility, I have already booked tickets for my parents and they will reach here early next week,” he said.
Another resident said the facility was a boon especially for residents who cannot get family visa status. “Now we can bring our family whenever it is convenient for us. I am waiting for the weather to improve. Then I will bring my wife and child as they can stay here with me for two months. I think there will be a great flow of people during the winter season which will be a boost for tourism in the country,” he added.