MOFA to hold briefings on US visa-free travel

TRAVEL DETAILS::Details on the new visa-waiver program are available on the Web sites of both the foreign ministry and the American Institute in Taiwan

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Oct 12, 2012 - Page 3

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday that it plans to hold a series of briefings around Taiwan to explain details of the visa-free privilege granted to Taiwanese wishing to travel to the US.

“We’re planning to hold briefings in central, southern and eastern Taiwan starting next week” to make the public more aware of the details of the US visa-waiver program, said Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of North American Affairs.

The ministry is to provide pamphlets detailing the requirements for the visa-free privilege, which will take effect next month, at places such as the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Linghu said at a regular news briefing.

He said that the ministry intends to work with the Taipei office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on making information on the new initiative available to Taiwanese.

He added that related information is also available on the Web sites of the foreign ministry and the AIT, which is the de facto US embassy in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Homeland Security announced Taiwan’s inclusion in the visa-waiver program, making it the 37th participant.

It will free Taiwanese travelers from going through the process of applying for a US visa and save them NT$4,800 (US$160) in fees.

Under the new procedure, Taiwanese who want to travel to the US can simply apply for an electronic travel authorization online for a fee of US$14. The online approval will allow multiple stays of up to 90 days over a two-year period.

Meanwhile, Linghu said a statement made by Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Shih Wen-yi (施文儀) on his Facebook page that the US did not grant Taiwan complete visa- free privileges because Taiwanese still have to register online was incorrect.

Such information is “wrong,” Ling hu said, adding that the online application for electronic travel authorization is a requirement of US Border Control and Homeland Security.

All nationals from countries participating in the US visa-waiver program have to go through the procedure, Linghu added.