Sun, Sep 01, 2019 - Page 3 News List

MOFA extends review for visa-free travel program

Staff writer, with CNA

From August next year, the annual review of the visa-free program for tourists from Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines and Russia is to be extended to once every three years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

“The visa-free treatment granted to the four countries is to expire on July 31, 2020. By that time, the evaluation on whether to extend that privilege will be conducted every three years,” MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said in a statement.

In August 2016, Taiwan began allowing citizens from Thailand and Brunei 14-day visa-free entry into the country as part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) New Southbound Policy.

The program was expanded to the Philippines in November 2017 and Russia in September last year.

In past reviews, the four countries had their visa-free privileges extended due to their citizens’ low involvement in illegal activities while in Taiwan. The maximum number of days Russians are allowed to stay in Taiwan was extended from 14 to 21 in July.

The government decided not to include Indonesia and Vietnam in its visa-free program “due to border management and national security considerations,” the ministry said.

However, the approval procedures for visa applications from citizens of the two countries would be simplified.

“Visa applications by citizens of Indonesia and Vietnam are to be reviewed by Taiwanese tourism officials based in those countries instead of the applications being sent to Taiwan, and visas are to be issued by local Taiwan representative offices to shorten the processing time,” the ministry said.

The ministry said that agencies are discussing ways to attract more tourists from six countries in the Middle East that are covered in Taiwan’s electronic visa program — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Taiwan is eager to develop tourism markets in the Gulf states, as tourists from there have high spending power, it said, adding it is confident of achieving this goal, because Taiwan was ranked third on this year’s Global Muslim Travel Index, which lists the most Islamic-friendly destinations.

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