Wed, Jan 02, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Number of Vietnam tourists expected to fall after visa freeze

Staff writer, with CNA, HANOI

A National Immigration Agency official at a news conference at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday holds up a sign with telephone numbers for missing Vietnamese tourists to call to turn themselves in without punishment for absconding.

Photo: Tony Yao, Taipei Times

The number of Vietnamese visiting Taiwan is likely to be reduced following the suspension of visas for groups of Vietnamese tourists, Ho Chi Minh City-based tour operators said over the weekend.

Blue Sky Travel manager Bui Luu Thu Mai on Saturday said that not only would the number of Vietnamese who want to visit Taiwan be affected, travel companies that sell tours to the nation would be affected.

Prior to the group visa program, Vietnamese had put off visiting Taiwan because of problems obtaining a visa, she said.

The program helped Vietnamese traveling to Taiwan, because it simplified the visa application process, said the representative of another travel agency, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

With the suspension of the program, visitors must now apply for a visa the traditional way, through Taiwan’s representative office in Vietnam, the representative said.

The entire process would cost US$43.15 more than under the group visa program, the representative said, adding that visa applicants must also provide a financial statement.

Vietnamese who wanted to visit Taiwan are likely to cancel their trips and choose another destination because of the hassle, the representative said.

Vietnam was initially one of the Southeast Asian countries whose nationals could apply for an electronic visa to visit Taiwan as part of a tour group under the “Kuan Hung Pilot Project,” which launched in November 2015 and runs until the end of this year.

When the project was first launched, it covered citizens of Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, India and Brunei. It now covers citizens of Indonesia, India, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, as Thailand, Brunei and the Philippines exited the program, because their citizens were granted visa-free entry to Taiwan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday announced that it has suspended e-visa applications for Vietnamese under the program, but said that individuals who want to visit Taiwan could still apply through its representative office in Vietnam.

The announcement was made after 152 of 153 Vietnamese who entered Taiwan as part of four tour groups on Dec. 21 and Sunday last week left their tour groups and were unaccounted for as of Tuesday last week.

An investigation then found that contact had been established with one member of the 152 who was previously reported missing and that three others had left the nation.

As of yesterday, 24 of the missing tourists had been found, leaving 124 unaccounted for, National Immigration Agency data showed.

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