Fri, Nov 24, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Immigration authority to open in January, Lee says

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

The long-awaited Immigration Administration will be operational on Jan. 2, Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) was quoted as saying in an interview with the Central News Agency (CNA) on Wednesday.

The agency has been in the offing since 1989, when immigration officials realized the need to eliminate red tape in dealing with immigration-related affairs.

The inauguration date was originally scheduled for early next month, but was pushed back a month, Lee said in the interview.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) reportedly decided to postpone the inauguration to give the agency more time to prepare.

Employing 2,012 staff, the agency will streamline immigration-related operations by subsuming the Bureau of Entry and Exit and shouldering certain responsibilities that other agencies have thus far been saddled with.

For example, travel document-related tasks that the Overseas Compatriots Affairs Commission has traditionally performed for Taiwanese expatriates, as well as certain duties that the Aviation Police Bureau and National Police Bureau have been responsible for, will all soon be handled by the new immigration administration.

By placing all immigration-related tasks and matters under the administration's authority, the nation will be better equipped to deal with an influx of immigrants and visitors, especially on the eve of further opening up the country to Chinese tourists, Lee was quoted as saying in the CNA report.

The administration will also reportedly boast a biometric identification system to speed up inspections and beef up border security.

The administration's "biometric identifiers," including iris scans, will identify visitors' physical and behavioral characteristics to verify their identities, which will be recorded in a database and retrieved as needed.

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