A team from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will arrive in Taiwan in the next few days to conduct in-country inspections of national security-related systems to determine the nation’s eligibility to join the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said yesterday.
AIT spokesperson Sheila Paskman confirmed the scheduled visit when contacted to verify a report in yesterday’s Chinese-language United Daily Evening News.
The DHS team will come next week to “conduct a working level review of Taiwan’s visa waiver application,” Paskman said, without revealing any further details.
Sources said the trip was scheduled last week before the legislature approved a resolution last Saturday that demanded the Executive Yuan not end a ban on the import of US beef containing the prohibited feed additive ractopamine via an executive order during the legislative session that ends in June.
The paper reported that national security officials were on high alert for any possible delay of the DHS visit amid the ongoing controversy over the beef issue, after Washington announced on Thursday that US Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez, originally scheduled to arrive in Taipei tomorrow, had postponed his visit to an as yet undetermined future date.
Neither the AIT nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would confirm the date of the DHS team’s arrival, reported to be on Wednesday.
National Immigration Agency Deputy Director-General Chang Chi (張琪) said that the team was expected to conduct on-site assessment of Taiwan’s anti-terrorism policies, immigration procedures and the fraud-prevention capabilities of passports.
The DHS team is also expected to visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Department of Household Registration under the Ministry of the Interior, to gain a better understanding of the passport-application system.
“Formally joining the US VWP this year is one of our most important objectives of the year. The ministry will cooperate fully with the DHS on its evaluation,” Department of North American Affairs Director-General Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達) said.
Taiwan was nominated on Dec. 22 for inclusion in the US VWP, which enables nationals of 36 participating countries to travel to the country for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.