Wed, Feb 15, 2012 - Page 3 News List

US pursues AIT budget hike

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

The US Department of State has asked for an increase of US$16 million in next year’s budget for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

The increase is intended to account for an expected loss of revenues when Taiwan qualifies for the US’ visa-waiver program (VWP), and the AIT is no longer able to charge visa for visits to the US.

As a result, the AIT budget is expected to rise to US$37 million next year, up from US$21 million this year.

The figures were released on Monday as part of the department’s budget request for fiscal 2013.

While US President Barack Obama’s overall election year budget is expected to be highly controversial on Capitol Hill, the request for extra money for the AIT is expected to be approved.

The budget document says that the AIT fosters strong, but unofficial ties between the US and Taiwan and that “this responsibility is more important than ever.”

“AIT serves as the advocate to Taiwan authorities for US political, economic and security interests and analyzes and reports on political and economic events critical to the US,” it said.

“AIT serves as the platform for significant bilateral military, law enforcement and intelligence cooperation and facilitates significant US arms sales to Taiwan,” it said.

In recent years, visa processing fees have generated about US$19 million annually and most of this will be lost as Taiwan moves toward acceptance in the VWP.

“Taiwan’s entry into the VWP is among the United States’ top priority goals for its relations with Taiwan,” the budget request said.

The visa fees have been used to pay rent, utilities and other operating costs.

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