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Qatar Refuses to Offer Visa-Free Entry to Iranians

Qatar Refuses to Offer Visa-Free Entry to Iranians”

Qatar announced on Wednesday it was scrapping visa requirements for visitors from 80 countries as it weathers a boycott by four Arab states and gears up to host the World Cup in 2022.

"The visa exemption scheme will make Qatar the most open country in the region", Hassan al-Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development officer at Qatar Tourism Authority told reporters at a press conference in Doha.

Regional kingpin Saudi Arabia as well as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have since June 5 imposed a boycott on Qatar, accusing the emirate of fostering Islamist extremist groups and of close ties to Iran. Americans, Britons, Canadians and citizens of 44 other countries can enter visa-free for an initial 30 days on single or multiple trips, and can extend that for a further 30 days.

The ambassador commended the strenuous efforts exerted by the Saudi Government, led by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, to serve the sacred sites, protect pilgrims without any discrimination and maintain security, stability and serenity during the Umrah and Hajj season. "The waiver will be valid for 180 days from the date of issuance and entitle its holder to spend up to 90 days in Qatar, during either a single trip or on multiple trips", the statement says.

The Alef news website, in a Thursday report, has harshly criticized Qatar for excluding Iran from the list given the country's staunch support for Doha.

Air links suspended by the four Arab states represented around 25 percent of flights by state-owned Qatar Airways, one of the region's big three carriers.

Under the new move, passport holders of 80 nations who wish to visit Qatar will no longer need, 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.

On 3 August, Qatar approved legislation allowing certain permanent residents to benefit from parts of the state's generous welfare system, including education and health-care services, a first for the Gulf.

Under the law, children of Qatari women married to foreigners and people with special skills "needed by the state", can benefit from the new status.

Out of Qatar's 2.4 million population, 90 per cent are foreigners, majority construction workers from South Asia.



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