As of June 23, 2017, authorities in Qatar have officially started piloting the country’s electronic visa program. The tiny Middle Eastern country - the entire region is the size of the American state of Connecticut - is also one of the richest in the world, owing to its extensive natural gas and oil reserves. For decades, Qatar has been looking for ways to stimulate its tourism industry and in turn spur its economy even further.
With the arrival of the Qatari electronic visa system, visitors will be able to enter the country more easily. Prior to the implementation of the electronic visa system, tourists could apply for visas solely through accredited Qatar-based companies, like certain hotels or tour operators. The new, more transparent application system allows travelers to apply for and track their visa applications completely online.
Qatari Electronic Visa System: How It Works
Prospective visitors will need to upload several documents as part of the application process. This documentation includes a scan of the biographical page of the traveler’s passport, photographs, airline tickets, and the address that the visitor will be staying in while visiting Qatar. The application also carries a fee of $42 USD.
Once the applicant has uploaded all their documents, the Qatari government takes about 48 hours to issue a response. If approved, the traveler will receive their approved e-visa via email.
Moreover, a new visa structure has been introduced to also boost the arrival of visitors. Before, passengers that arrived at Hamad International Airport with a minimum of 5 hours of transit time were allowed to stay for 48 hours; under the new scheme, these visitors can stay in Qatar up to 96 hours instead.
Qatari Companies Team Up to Promote Tourism
The new electronic visa program comes as the result of the collaboration between several powerful Qatari companies, all of which share the desire to boost tourism to the country. The list of collaborating companies includes the Ministry of Interior, the Qatar Tourism Authority, and Qatar Airways.
“We look forward to working with our partners on the second phase, which will include additional services, such as renewing visas,” said Department of Passport and Expatriate Affairs Director General Brigadier Mohammed al-Ateeq.
The Chief Executive of Qatar Airways, Mr. Akbar al-Baker, also expressed hope in the positive effect that the electronic visa program would have on future visitors to Qatar.
“With the recent launch of the free transit visa for visitors to Qatar, and our incentive to provide stop over passengers with free hotel accommodation through the +qatar campaign,” Mr. al-Baker stated, “I am confident that we will continue to see Qatar emerge as a leading stopover destination.”
Indeed, the numbers are already promising. The Qatar Tourism Authority estimates that the electronic visa program has resulted in a 53% increase in the number of stopover visitors to the country in March 2017 as compared to a year earlier.