A new visa scheme for travelers transiting through Hamad International Airport (HIA) goes online today, Qatar Airways (QA) and the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) have announced.
The free 96-hour transit visa is available to all Qatar Airways passengers with layovers of five or more hours at HIA, regardless of nationality. However, visas are granted based on the sole discretion of the Ministry of Interior, and must be applied for at least seven days in advance, Qatar Airways said in a statement yesterday.
The visa scheme was first announced in late September as a way to woo more tourists to Qatar. But it took some time to implement, in part because Qatar Airways needed to restructure its fares so that stopovers in Doha don’t cost extra. The new offering comes on the same day that HIA launched its people mover system. The trains are expected to help arriving, departing and transiting passengers navigate the airport more swiftly.
How it works
Passengers can apply for their free transit visas through any Qatar Airways offices, or online here. Eligibility requirements include:
- Having a ticket that shows an onward journey out of Qatar on a flight operated by the national carrier;
- Holding a passport that is valid for at least six months from the time of arrival in Qatar; and
- Sharing a valid email to facilitate the visa process.
The visa should be applied for between seven and 90 days before arriving in Qatar, excluding public holidays. Once approved, the transit visa will be valid for 90 days from the date of issuance, for a single entry into Qatar. Passengers must hold a copy of the pre-approved transit visa at the time of boarding at their airport of origin, as well as when arriving in Doha.
Notably, passengers traveling from Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sudan, and the UAE can only stopover with the free visa while on their outward journey, not on the return.
The new transit visa comes at a time when tourism is flagging in Qatar, despite a push to grow the sector. According to real estate firm DTZ, a 3 percent dip in visitor numbers this year has hurt the hospitality sector, contributing to falling occupancy and revenues.
In a statement yesterday, Hassan Al Ibrahim, QTA’s chief tourism development officer, said:
“Visa facilitation is an important factor in increasing the attractiveness of a destination, and we encourage investors and tourism business owners to capitalize on the opportunities presented by this development to diversify Qatar’s tourism products and services.”
Sources: Doha News, Qatar Tourism Authority, Qatar Airways.