Mon, Jul 22, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Chinese medical tourists facing tougher visa rules

Staff writer, with CNA

Regulations for Chinese nationals visiting Taiwan for health checkups or cosmetic surgery will be tightened next month to prevent irregularities, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) has said.

Since the government began to allow Chinese to visit Taiwan for health reasons in late 2011, more than 100,000 Chinese visitors have come here via this channel.

More than 100 visitors on health visas have breached regulations during their stay. Dozens were found engaging in prostitution and several others were caught begging on the street. Forty-nine Chinese visitors who entered the country for medical purposes remain unaccounted for.

Immigration officials said the number of Chinese to be allowed to visit for medical purposes could drop by 10 to 20 percent once the tightened rules come into force in the middle of next month.

NIA Director-General Hsieh Li-kung (謝立功) said on Friday that stricter regulations will be imposed for Chinese intending to visit for medical purposes.

“We may ease regulations again if local medical institutions strictly follow new rules to help reduce irregularities,” Hsieh said.

Under current rules, Chinese nationals aged 20 or over, with bank deposits of more than NT$200,000 or annual incomes of over NT$500,000, can apply to visit for health checkups or cosmetic surgery.

“We are reviewing the screening mechanism. We will discuss how to strengthen the mechanism or plug any loopholes late this month and unveil new rules in early August,” Hsieh said.

Ten hospitals that have been disciplined for guaranteeing Chinese clients who did not meet the conditions of their visit will be required to verify financial statements presented by Chinese applicants, Hsieh said.

The new regulations will also require Chinese visitors intending to visit again for cosmetic surgery within half a year to present written statements from medical institutions vouching for the need for a repeat visit, Hsieh added.

At present, 39 medical institutions can apply to have Chinese visit for medical purposes.

Such applications offer Chinese an additional channel to visit other than via tour groups, business trips and the Free Independent Travel program. Some travel agencies have cooperated with hospitals in organizing medical tour groups, and 50,000 such visits were approved last year.

Under new medical visit regulations, annual income statements or the positions of Chinese applicants will have to be verified by both the Straits Exchange Foundation and its Chinese counterpart, the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.

Medical institutions will also be required to present receipts proving that each Chinese medical visitor has paid at least NT$15,000 in advance for a health checkup at a medical center and at least NT$10,000 in advance for a checkup at a regional hospital.

In May, a woman and two men from Zhejiang Province visiting for medical purposes were found soliciting donations in Taipei’s Neihu Science Park as Buddhist monks and a Buddhist nun.

They claimed that the funds would be used to finance the construction of a temple. In less than a month, they managed to collect more than NT$244,000, according to local police.

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