The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that it would expand the visa-free travel period for British nationals to 90 days, extendable to six months, starting next Tuesday.
The move is a reciprocal gesture following the UK’s recent decision to grant qualified Taiwanese citizens six-month visa exemptions starting today.
The UK is the first major western country to include Taiwan in its visa-free program.
“With these new reciprocal visa-wavier arrangements in place, we are very hopeful that the strong commercial and cultural links that Taiwan and the UK already enjoy will receive a considerable boost,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said.
The UK currently enjoys the “most favorable visa-free treatment that Taiwan provides to any country,” he said.
British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) Director David Campbell said the UK’s decision followed a worldwide review of visa regimes carried out by the British government over the last two years.
“The decision on Taiwan reflected the fact that Taiwan represents a low migration risk. I am pleased to say that most Taiwanese visits have largely been problem-free,” he added.
Campbell said the number of UK visas issued to Taiwanese is expected to fall from around 30,000 to 6,000 annually
“Judging from the reaction of travel agencies and others in Taiwan, many people will see this perhaps as an extra reason to visit the UK,” he said, adding that the exemption would also make life easier for Taiwanese planning to visit the UK for short-term study as well as businesspeople with interests in the UK.
Eva Air president James Jeng (鄭光遠) said yesterday the Taiwanese tourism industry was encouraged by the new visa arrangements and believed it would greatly benefit the travel industry in both countries.
The introduction of visa-free privileges to Taiwanese has prompted the BTCO to shut down its branch in Kaohsiung. The two staffers posted in Kaohsiung will be relocated to Taipei, but will continue to work on UK-Taiwan trade relations in the south, Campbell said.
He said that people traveling to the UK still needed to have the required supporting documentation, including a financial statement and a return flight ticket, when arriving at British customs.
BTCO figures show 76,549 British nationals visited Taiwan last year, an increase of 9.89 percent on the previous year.
The number of Taiwanese tourists visiting the UK went up by 2.1 percent from 2007 to approximately 39,000 last year.
For more information on the details of the visa-free programs, visit www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk or www.boca.gov.tw.
Taiwanese nationals in need of emergency assistance while in the UK can call the London representative office at 07768-938-765.
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