Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday denied allegations by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Deputy Minister Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) that the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) had requested NT$340 million (US$11 million) for a program that would allow Taiwanese to apply for passports at household registration offices.
“The MOI did not request any additional budget while organizing the mechanism for the processing of passport applications at household registration offices,” Jiang told reporters. “The deputy minister [of foreign affairs] appears to have misread the matter.”
Local household registration offices may initially have asked for financial assistance, “but the amount is not more than NT$300 million” as alleged by Shen, Jiang said.
During a break at a legislative meeting, Shen told reporters that the MOI had requested NT$340 million for air conditioning at household registrations and asked MOFA to send officials to each of the nation’s more than 300 household registration offices.
The new measure, which is likely to be implemented in March, came in response to a request by the US that all passport applications must be made in person before Taiwan could be included in its visa-waiver program.
In a statement on Wednesday, the MOI said that after looking into the matter, it had found that MOFA had a NT$140 million budget to be allocated directly to household registration offices, which did not require going through the MOI.
The MOI never made a request for NT$340 million, the statement said.
Jiang said that despite the good channels of communication between the two ministries, misunderstandings on certain details were nevertheless inevitable.
“We will endeavor to clarify such misunderstandings when they happen,” he said.
Later yesterday, MOFA spokesman James Chang (章計平) said the ministry would seek better coordination with the MOI to ensure the trial program is successful, as it will be instrumental in obtaining visa-waiver status from Washington.
After revisions were made to the initial proposal, the annual budget for the implementation of the program will drop from NT$340 million to less than NT$20 million, Chang said.
Initially, passport applicants will be required to complete all procedures to apply for the document at household registration offices administered by the MOI, which will require additional staff and equipment at those offices.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan