Asean business visa policy favourable for Qatar
May 19 2013 01:40 AM

Asean countries have made it gradually easier for GCC nationals to acquire visas from embassies or on arrival, or get visa exemptions for a longer stay in many of the countries of the ten-member bloc.

For example, Thailand has on January 5, 2013, introduced a 90-day visa exemption for passport holders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE going to the Kingdom for medical purpose.

In many other Asean countries Qataris are eligible for (tourist) visas on arrival through a short procedure.

However, getting a business visa for businesspeople or investors is a different story. Many of the countries have varying regulations, under which documents have to be presented and various conditions have to fulfilled to obtain a business visa, which makes it quite cumbersome if investors want to travel to a number of countries in the region for business opportunities.

However, this seems to change now. Asean leaders at their meeting at the 22nd Asean Summit, held in Brunei from April 24 to 25, pressed forward with the proposal for a common visa for non-Asean nationals to the ten-member bloc. They have also agreed to launch an ‘Asean business traveller card’ by 2015, which will allow frequent business travellers from Asean countries to stay for months at a time in other Asean countries, without the need to obtain a visa. This programme would be extended later to non-Asean nationals. It has not been yet clarified which nations will benefit from it. But at least it is a step in the right direction.

Asean also aims to drop the need for visas for tourists from member countries, a move that would enable them to move freely within the bloc. And it will press ahead with a plan to issue to tourists outside Asean — a visa that can be used in multiple Asean nations.

At the end of 2012, Thailand and Cambodia have already decided to issue a common visa valid in both countries to national of 35 nations and regions, including Qatar. This programme is to be expanded to cover Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos and eventually to all 10 Asean members.

The free movement of business travellers and tourists is one of the pillars of the proposed Asean Economic Community, which is slated to be launched by the end of 2015. The plan is similar to the current Schengen visa system in which 26 European countries participate.

A multi-state tourist visa for Asean is a highly desirable and necessary way to improve the region’s growth prospects. This will be something of a relief for business travelers, who still have to seek visas to enter many Asean countries, especially the hotspot of Myanmar, where a visa application can take days if not weeks and is a tedious process.


*Our columnist Dr Arno Maierbrugger is Editor-in-Chief of, a news portal owned by Inside Investor, focusing on Southeast Asian economic topics as well as trade and investment relations between Asean and the GCC. The views expressed are his own.

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