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Qatar announced that hitherto visa-free citizens will have to obtain visa prior to their arrival in Qatar from May 1 as part of new regulations being enacted by the country. Under the new rules all passengers wishing to travel to Qatar for business purposes will need to have their visas arranged by a local sponsor.

 

Application process for a visa would take “two to three days”, said a consular official at the Qatari consulate in Dubai.

He did not have more information on the proposed changes.

 

There has been no official confirmation so far from Qatar about the changes being made to visa-on-arrival regulations, said a report in Peninsula newspaper of Qatar.

However, the report said Qatar plans to issue visas on arrival to citizens of only those countries who provide similar facilities to its nationals.

 

April 12, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

There is no official confirmation of the news but as it has come from a consular official in Dubai it may either be an indication that this is the direction that the Qatari government is heading towards, or is a position that, although will not be implemented on May 1 as indicated, show that Qatar is seriously considering this.

 

Local opinion in the GCC has in recent months become increasingly hostile to what is perceived as free and unhindered access of Westerners to the GCC states. Most GCC state offers Western citizens visa-free or visa-on-arrival, whilst GCC citizens need to apply for visas. The lack of reciprocity is increasingly making local GCC citizens unhappy with public sentiment against increased infiltration of Western values a cause for concern. The Qatari government’s announcement seems to come to answer those local GCC concerns. It is unlikely other GCC states will follow Qatar, or indeed if Qatar does indeed implement those changes. However, if this happens, it will make it increasingly difficult for Qatar’s economy to diversify and attract foreign investment. Free access to the GCC markets is very important to foreign investors and the move will likely divert foreign investment to other states, such as the UAW and Bahrain.