The Department of Consular Affairs of Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has clarified to its citizens that the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which is set to become effective on May next year, 2023, does not affect their trips to any of the 26 Schengen Area countries.
Through a statement issued last Saturday, June 25, the MFA has pointed out that the ETIAS will apply only to non-EU citizens from the countries that currently travel to the Schengen Area visa-free and, as such, is not an alternative to the Schengen visa requirement for Qataris.
“The Department explained that the ETIAS system is not considered a visa, and it is not a substitute for the Schengen visa, but rather a travel authorization for travellers from about 59 Schengen-exempt countries. Whilst, on the other hand, travellers from non-Schengen-exempt countries will still continue to obtain a Schengen visa as usual in order to enter the European Union countries,” the Ministry explains in its statement.
The ETIAS is a completely online system that, from May 2023 and on, will be used to keep track of the visitors under Europe’s visa-free entry system, including travellers from two middle eastern countries – Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Several other world countries have similar schemes in places, like the US, which operates the so-called Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Though Qataris are not affected by the launch of the ETIAS anyhow, for now, in the future, they may.
At the end of April this year, the European Commission proposed the abolishment of visa requirements for Qatar and Kuwait nationals, upon asserting that these countries have already met the necessary criteria.
If the EU Council approves the proposal, Qataris and Kuwaitis will be able to travel to all Schengen Area Member States for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period for business, tourism and family purposes, exempt from visa application obligation.
However, if the proposal is approved after May 2023, they will also have to apply for an ETIAS in advance instead of Schengen visas.
Currently, Qatar citizens need to go through the process of applying for a Schengen visa, which requires collecting a load of documents, paying a fee of €80 at least, and attending an in-person interview. The procedures for making a visa appointment alone can take from weeks to months sometimes.
Yet, this doesn’t prevent the Qatari citizens from being listed among the 20 world countries in which most Schengen visa applications are filed. In 2021, out of the total 2,926,104 Schengen visa applications filed worldwide, 44,416 of them were lodged at the Schengen Embassies, Consulates, and visa processing centres located in Qatar.