Wed, Dec 29, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Visa rules eased for 15 countries

`FLEXIBLE ENTRY' In a bid to encourage tourism, the Executive Yuan has approved a measure to cut down the waiting time for people invited to authorized conferences

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The visa-application process for nationals of certain countries, including China, will be expedited if the purpose of their visit is to attend authorized international activities, the Executive Yuan announced yesterday.

The Executive Yuan yesterday approved a "flexible entry mechanism," which stipulates that visa applications of Chinese nationals invited by authorized local organizers will be directly handled by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Council of Mainland Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior.

While the current processing time takes about 21 days, the new initiative is estimated to cut down the processing time to less than two weeks.

Nationals of the specified countries that are invited by local organizers to attend authorized international conferences or exhibitions will be entitled to a landing visa if they file the application seven days before their arrival. Applicants do not need to have a sponsor during the visa-application process.

Currently, foreign visitors are required to list a local sponsor when filing a visa application.

The 15 countries are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Syria. More detailed information on the measure will be made available by the Department of Commerce by the end of next month. The department will form a task force to handle the matter.

According to Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), the initiative is aimed at increasing the number of foreign tourists visiting Taiwan.

"In a bid to reach the ultimate goal of doubling the number of foreign tourists, we've mapped out various measures to make things easier for foreign tourists, and this initiative is one of them," he said.

Chen made the remark after Premier Yu Shyi-kun approved the measure during the weekly finance and economy meeting. The meeting was presided over by Yu and attended by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Ministry of Finance.

To boost the nation's tourism sector, the Executive Yuan in August 2002 launched a six-year project to double the number of foreign tourists visiting Taiwan to 5 million by 2008. The project is included in the government's NT$2.6 trillion, six-year development project to turn Taiwan into a "green silicon island."

The government hopes to increase the number of tourists to 3.1 million this year, 3.5 million next year, 4 million in 2006, 4.5 million in 2007 and 5 million in 2008.

However, the project was dealt a blow by the outbreak of SARS last year, which caused the number of visitors to fall to 2.2 million, 600,000 fewer than the government's target.

In an effort to reinvigorate the tourism industry, the government last November started the "Visit Taiwan Year" with the goal of attracting more than 3 million foreign visitors this year.

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