MOFA official hails US Visa-Waiver Program benefits

Staff Writer, with CNA

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 - Page 3

The US’ recent announcement that Taiwan has been included in its Visa-Waiver Program marks a new high in bilateral ties, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.

“The privilege granted to Taiwanese means that Taiwan-US relations have reached their highest point over the past 30 years,” said Department of North American Affairs director-general Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達).

The program, set to be implemented on Nov. 1, frees Taiwanese from going through the cumbersome process of applying for a US visa and is to save them NT$4,800 per application.

It will bring huge benefits to both the tourism and aviation sectors, Linghu said.

Taiwanese will still need to apply for electronic travel authorization online for a fee of US$14. The authorization is to be valid for a two-year period.

The program is expected to save Taiwanese an estimated NT$600 million (US$20.5 million) in visa application fees per year, Linghu said in a briefing in Taipei.

Meanwhile, chief of the consular section of the American Institute in Taiwan, Morgan Parker, gave his assurance in the briefing that the authorization system will be “very easy to use,” with registration and results generated in minutes.

Parker was referring to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is required for Taiwanese before they travel to the US, as is the case for all the other 36 countries under the Visa-Waiver Program.

US officials will conduct a review two years after the program begins to check whether Taiwan still meets the requirements for designation as a participating country.

“The visits will verify if the security is still in place,” ESTA program manager Logan Bowman said.