The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday welcomed Taiwan’s inclusion in the UK’s six-month visa-waiver program and said the government was considering reciprocating the offer.
The UK is the 31st county to grant Taiwanese visa-free privilege. Other countries include some of Taiwan’s allies and a few non-allies such as South Korea, Singapore and Japan.
The British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) said yesterday that starting on March 3, Republic of China (ROC) passport holders who wish to visit the UK for less than six months for business or tourism purposes, family visits or as students and who won’t be working there will no longer require a visa.
“Britain enjoys strong commercial and cultural ties with Taiwan,” BTCO’s new director David Campbell said. “Lifting the visa requirement for stays of less than six months will help to build on that to the benefit of both British and Taiwanese people.”
“We believe Taiwan’s inclusion in the visa-waiver program will encourage more Taiwanese tourists to visit Britain and help promote more exchanges among the two peoples,” Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said.
The UK made the decision after it concluded that Taiwan had satisfied all the criteria required by the UK Border Agency based on a worldwide review of regime carried out in 2007 and last year.
In his farewell press conference last month, former BTCO director Michael Reilly said London’s “only real area of concern” on admitting Taiwan to the visa-waiver program was the massive migration of Chinese illegal aliens into the UK, saying such privilege could encourage the Chinese use to use ROC passports to smuggle people into the UK.
“The problem of fraudulent documentation or false documentation is a problem around the world. How we address that is to have very close links with migration authorities around the world and that certainly includes Taiwan,” Campbell said, adding that the UK enjoys close and regular contacts with Taiwanese authorities and that those ties would be further cemented in the future.
Asked if London is worried that ROC passports might become an attractive tool for smuggling rings, Campbell said: “I am aware that in recent months, Taiwan has undertaken a number of developments and it is certainly a shared interest around the world to try and combat misuse of documentation.”
“We are confident that with those expert contacts we have that risks such as that can be managed,” he said.
Bureau of Consular Affairs Chief Lo Yu-chung (羅由中) said the announcement showed that London appreciated Taiwan’s issuance of electronic passports. Lu urged other countries to follow the UK’s lead.
BTCO said Taiwanese visiting the UK under the visa-waiver program still had to satisfy authorities at their port of entry that they meet the UK’s admission requirements and must have with them supporting documents such as return flight tickets, evidence of funding, letters from sponsors or the businesses they are visiting, or the school they plan to study at.
The BTCO received more than 28,000 visa applications last year.