The big news at AIT's Travel Services Section (TSS) this summer is the departure of our long-serving Section Chief Ronald Harms, who is leaving to head up the US mission in the Republic of Palau. Harm's replacement, Keith Powell, will be arriving in July from Washington, where he formerly served as Director of the Office of Computer Systems Development in the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Regardless of who is in charge, the main aim of AIT's Travel Services Section is to provide assistance to American citizens and to facilitate legitimate travel to the US. Comprehensive information on all our services can be found on the AIT website (www.ait.org.tw). American citizens in need of help can call American Citizen Services during business hours at 2709-2000. Americans with after-hours requests for emergency services should contact AIT's Duty Desk Office at 2709-2013/14.
People with questions about visas should call our new automated information service at 0204-58858. This service contains complete and up-to-date information on both non-immigrant and immigrant visas. Given the volume of information requests, callers will be charged NT$6 per minute to use the system. Access to our website, of course, is free.
Our most important responsibility at the AIT is the protection of American citizens. We encourage all American citizens to register with AIT's American Services unit. Whether it's a large-scale disaster such as the 1999 earthquake or a sudden medical emergency, registering at AIT will help us help you. Registering is easy.
You can register in person at either of our Taipei and Kaoh-siung offices, or you can register on line at the AIT Web site. We also encourage you to join our new American Citizen Services group e-mail network to receive the latest travel warnings, warden announcements, and other news. Sign up by sending a blank email to email@example.com.
AIT's American Citizen Services unit offers a host of other services as well, from accepting passport applications, to issuing reports of American-citizen births, to taking notarials. We can assist you in applying for absentee ballots or in finding an English-speaking doctor or lawyer. We also have a large stock of IRS forms, though specific US tax inquiries should be addressed to the IRS office in Tokyo (tel: 81-3-3224-5466, fax: 81-3-3224-5274, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
A note on passports: Effective July 2, 2001, a new US law will require that both parents sign passport applications for children under the age of 14. When only one parent is available to sign the application, that parent must provide documentary evidence that she or he has sole legal custody of the child or has obtained the written consent of the other parent. This law, applicable worldwide, is intended to lessen the possibility that a US passport might be used in the course of an international parental child abduction.
AIT's Visa Unit is one of the busiest in the world. Last year, we issued over 275,000 non-immigrant visas to the US for business, investment, study, and tourism. As part of our continuing effort to make the visa application as quick and easy as possible, more than half of all Taiwanese travelers can apply for a visa without an interview. In addition to the tour-group, visa-renewal, and over-40 applicants, applicants for "H" employment visas no longer need to appear for an interview, provided they have all their documents in order. We have also established a new procedure for interview-free visa application in cooperation with the Taiwan branch of the American Chamber of Commerce. For complete information on all our visa categories and application procedures, visit website or call 0204-58858. Given the sheer number of nonimmigrant visa applications -- during the summer months it is not unusual for us to receive 1,500 to 2,000 applications a day -- we need four working days to process a visa. Please plan accordingly. For those applicants who do have to apply in person, you can reduce the time you have to spend waiting to enter and exit AIT by leaving your cell phones and other electronics at home.