Fri, Mar 18, 2011 - Page 2 News List

JAPAN DISASTER: AIT closes visa services to cope with Japan crisis

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) yesterday announced it would temporarily close routine visa services for Taiwanese after the US Department of State authorized the voluntary departure from Japan of family members of US government personnel.

“We temporarily suspended routine visa services so [AIT] visa officers can go to the airport to help American citizens who come to Taiwan,” AIT spokeswoman Sheila Paskman said by telephone.

The US government has chartered aircraft to help US officials at the US embassy and consulates as well, as their dependents, leave the country, Paskman said, adding that the measure also applied to stranded US citizens not employed by the US government.

Paskman said some chartered airplanes would come to Taiwan, with the first expected to arrive this morning, while others would go to Seoul.

As the nuclear crisis in Japan intensifies, the US called on US citizens in Japan to take precautions against the risk of sustained exposure to radioactivity, including relocating from potentially affected areas in northeastern Japan.

Although the US has authorized the voluntary departure of family of US embassy staff, all US embassy, consulate and other US government operations would continue.

In a press release, AIT said the closure of visa services would hold until further notice on the AIT Web site and added that American Citizen Services would not be affected.

“We encourage individuals who had non-immigrant visa interview appointments scheduled on or after March 18, 2011, to check AIT’s Web site for updates on when we can resume routine services. These applicants may reschedule appointments by visiting the Application Processing Center’s web site at http://www.visaagent.com.tw,” the AIT notice said.

E-mailed applications can be made in cases of emergency, it said.

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