Araweelo News Network

Passengers walk in Hamad International Airport in the Qatari capital, Doha, June 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Doha(ANN)-Qatar has announced a visa-free entry program for 80 nationalities to enhance economic recovery amid an ongoing diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia and its regional allies.

Tourism department official Hassan al-Ibrahim told a press conference in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Wednesday that the program would stimulate air transport and tourism.

“The visa exemption scheme will make Qatar the most open country in the region,” media outlets quoted Ibrahim as saying.

Interior ministry official Mohamed Rashed al-Mazroui confirmed that the nationals of 80 countries would only need to present a valid passport for entry into the Persian Gulf state.

Mazroui said the countries were selected on the basis of security and economic considerations, or for the buying power of their nationals.

The 80 countries were not named and neither was the date from which the visa-free program would take effect.

Qatari newspapers, however, have said it would apply mainly to Western and some other nationals.

Nationals of 33 countries will be authorized to stay for 180 days and the other 47 for up to 30 days. The periods are renewable a single time.

Citizens of those countries wishing to visit Qatar will not need to apply or pay for a visa.

Instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued free of charge at the port of entry upon presentation of a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket.

Qatar Airways chief Akbar al-Baker has said his carrier would be a primary beneficiary of the scheme. The carrier plans to extend its network to 62 new destinations.

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On August 3, Qatar created a new permanent resident status for certain groups of foreigners.

Under the new rules, children with a Qatari mother and a foreign father can benefit from the new status. This also includes foreign residents who have “given service to Qatar” or have “skills that can benefit the country.”

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Those deemed eligible for the new status will be afforded the same access as Qataris to free public services.

Qatar has a population of 2.4 million people, 90 percent of whom are foreigners.

The so-called quartet of states, known as the siege countries, led by Saudi Arabia, have said they have no concessions or compromises to make over their list of demands that requires Qatar to change its policies, including Doha’s alleged support for terrorism, as an unprecedented diplomatic rift further deepens in the Persian Gulf region.

The widening rift occurred on June 5, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates severed ties with Qatar, officially accusing Doha of supporting “terrorism” and destabilizing the Middle East. Qatar says the allegations are unjustified and stem from false claims and assumptions.