Cyprus eases GCC visa woes in Doha


THE Republic of Cyprus has opened an embassy in Doha to serve the whole Arabian Gulf and is to launch an informative new website for those wishing to do business with the island country.

In addition to offering information about the island for tourism and trade, the embassy issues visas to non-Cypriots wishing to visit.
Speaking to TTN, ambassador Dr George Kassoulides said, “Though companies and individuals from the region seeking to establish business ties with Cyprus are free to make direct contact with ministries, organisations and companies in Cyprus, or with the Cypriot tourism and trade offices in Dubai, we also invite them to contact the embassy in Doha. The embassy will launch a new website in September that will provide extensive information for those wanting to do business in and with Cyprus.
The embassy already receives numerous enquiries from people wanting to visit the island for both business and leisure. “Tourism is a very important source of income for Cyprus; it is a beautiful island and we are a hospitable people so we don’t mind sharing it with visitors. Most come in summer, but it is lovely all year round. Spring is my favourite season, but in winter, visitors can ski in the Troodos mountains.”
One of the reasons Cyprus decided to open an embassy in the Gulf, says ambassador Kassoulides, is that with the island’s entry to the EU, visa requirements became stricter. That, he said, is an EU requirement, not a decision made by Cyprus.
“This will have a lot of advantages for travellers [to Cyprus and other parts of Europe] once we start issuing Schengen visas. Opening the Doha embassy helps ease the process of issuing visas – which were earlier available on arrival. People go to Cyprus not just for tourism but for business, trade, exhibitions and conferences, and many people from the GCC have established businesses there.
“We co-ordinate with consular services in neighbouring countries; they forward visa applications to us through a same-day-service so completed visas can be returned to the applicant within two or three days. Our relations with this region have always been important and we want those to continue and develop,” he said.
EU passport holders don’t need a visa for Cyprus. Australian passport holders have exemption from Schengen visa requirements for stays of up to 90 days. During summer 2006, the Cypriot embassy in Qatar has been processing between 50 and 100 visa applications per day for GCC travellers, and in the case of walk-in applicants from Qatar, “about 99 per cent of visas are issued the same day. If people do their homework, and make sure they come with all the necessary papers, it’s very quick and simple in nearly every case.”
As a Schengen member, [even though not yet issuing Schengen visas for technical reasons] Cyprus is required to be Schengen-compliant and ask tourists applying for visas to provide a variety of details.
“We try to make things as easy as possible, but we have to be careful,” said the ambassador. “Other Schengen states expect us to ensure we’re not opening the gates to people trying to get in [on a tourist visa] to seek employment in the EU and to live there. But for regular travellers such as those with their own businesses or property for example, we can provide multiple-entry visas, valid for up to five years.”