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Tue 1 Nov 2016 12:07 PM

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Qatar launches free visa transit scheme

Initiative aimed at boosting tourism, but extra charges apply for Middle East-based passengers

Qatar launches free visa transit scheme
Hamad International Airport. (Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images)

Doha transit passengers can now request a complimentary transit visa allowing them 96 hours to visit Qatar before continuing with their journey, it has been announced.

Qatar Airways and the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) on Monday announced the launch of a long-awaited new visa scheme that takes effect on November 1.

Any passenger with a layover of five hours or more at Hamad International Airport (HIA) will be able to request the visa, which allows them to enter Qatar for up to 96 hours in between flights.

All visas are granted at the discretion of the Ministry of Interior, according to the announcement.

The initiative is part of wider plans to boost tourism in Qatar, in the run-up to international events such as the FIFA World Cup 2022, being hosted by Doha.

Passengers can apply for their free transit visa before their flight through any of Qatar Airways’ offices, or online here.

To be eligible, passengers must have a confirmed ticket for a journey into Qatar, and a confirmed onward journey out of Qatar on a Qatar Airways-operated flight.

Passengers must be holding a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months from the time of arrival in Qatar. Once approved, the transit visa will be valid for 90 days from the date of issuance, and will be valid for a single entry into Qatar.

Qatar Airways said it had restructured its fares for international flights transiting through HIA, to enable passengers to have the free stopover without any additional charges on their ticket.

However, passengers travelling from the GCC and Middle East on return tickets will only be permitted to stopover on their outbound journey, with additional charges, the announcement said.

Qatar Airways group CEO Akbar Al Baker said: “Qatar Airways is proudly committed to making Doha a world-class tourist destination. Our collaboration with Qatar Tourism Authority in setting the new transit visa enables our passengers to explore the country and its hospitality.”

And Hassan Al Ibrahim, chief tourism development officer at QTA, said: “We have witnessed remarkable interest in the new transit visa scheme from passengers who anticipate a stopover in Qatar, and we expect this interest to translate into an increase in visitor arrivals over the coming months.

“Visa facilitation is an important factor in increasing the attractiveness of a destination, and we encourage investors and tourism business owners to capitalise on the opportunities presented by this development to diversify Qatar’s tourism products and services.”

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