Tue, Jul 29, 2003 - Page 3 News List

MOFA opens up applications for `Taiwan' passports

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Staring Friday, Taiwanese will be able to apply for passports with the word "Taiwan" printed in the middle of the cover in Roman script, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday.

The ministry held a press conference yesterday to answer questions about applying for redesigned passports, which will be available in September. Officials said the ministry has been flooded with calls and e-mails about the application process.

Traditionally, the first passport of a new edition is issued to the president. However, Minster of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) said President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has expressed his willingness to open the opportunity to the general public.

"It was our fear that quite a number of people would want to get the No. 1 copy of the new passport on August 1 [when applications open]," Chien told the press conference.

"After thorough discussion, we decided to have a computerized drawing to determine who will get the first 100 passports," he said.

The drawing is scheduled for Aug. 15, Chien said, and anyone who files an application between Friday and Aug. 14 will be eligible.

Yang Sheng-chung (楊勝宗), director-general of the minis-try's Bureau of Consular Affairs, said people who get the new passport should remember to carry their previous passport with them when traveling, if the older passport still has valid visas in it.

However, since each country has its own rules regarding visas, Yang suggested that people check with the relevant authorities before they leave Taiwan to determine whether the visas attached to their original passports will be deemed valid in the country they are visiting.

The bureau estimates that there are around 8 million passports currently in use.

Holders of these passports can still travel with them, Yang said, until the passports expire.

Chien said the exchanges between the ministry and Taipei-based diplomats regarding the new passport scheme have gone "smoothly."

The only change to the design of the passports is the addition of the word "Taiwan" in Roman letters. The national emblem and the nation's name, Republic of China (ROC) written in English and Chinese remain the same.

Officials said they hoped Taiwanese traveling with the new passports would no longer be mistaken for travelers from China, as the new covers are expected to help distinguish ROC passports from PRC passports.

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