Facing a regional boycott led by its neighbors UAE and Saudi Arabia, Qatar has announced an overhaul of its visa program that will now allow visa-on-arrival entry for citizens of 80 countries.
According to reports, visitors from countries like India, Lebanon, New Zealand, South Africa, US, and many countries in Europe will now receive visas on arrival.
The visa waiver, which takes effect immediately, allows the citizens of 33 countries to stay in Qatar for 90 days within a 180-day time span, while the nationals of the remaining countries can now stay in Qatar for up to 30 days.
Both 30-day and 90-day travelers are eligible for multiple entries to the country.
The move is being seen as an attempt to push its aviation and tourism sectors in the midst of the Gulf boycott, as well preparing for the football World Cup in 2022, when visitors from around the world are expected in Qatar.
Since June 5, Qatar is facing a boycott from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE, who accuse the Gulf state of harboring and encouraging terrorism, and also of closer ties to Saudi’s regional rival, Iran.
The said countries have since cut off all transport links with the country, starving it of valuable aviation and tourism revenues—air links suspended by the four Arab states accounted for 25% of flights by state-owned Qatar Airways.
While efforts led by Kuwait to solve the crisis and end the boycott are ongoing, Qatar has accelerated measures to alleviate their impact.
Earlier this month, Qatar also relaxed its residency laws to allow permanent status to children of Qatari women married to foreigners and people with special skills in demand in the state.
Following this change, these permanent residents will now be eligible for parts of Qatar’s welfare system, including education and health-care services.
Foreign workers from countries including India, Egypt, Lebanon, and Nepal account for around 90% of Qatar’s population of 2.7 million.