AIT still eager to inform Taiwanese about visa program

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Dec 02, 2012 - Page 3

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said it remains eager to inform Taiwanese about the US Visa-Waiver Program, although there are no plans to mark the first month of Taiwan’s inclusion.

“We remain eager to be in touch with the traveling public,” AIT spokesman Mark Zimmer said on Friday.

The AIT, which represents US interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties, has carried out several successful public outreach events to publicize the program in the busiest areas of Taipei, including night markets, shopping malls and major transportation hubs.

At the promotional events, flyers were handed out and information was offered on how to register for the program, as well as the program’s requirements.

“We may conduct other open-air events if we see a demand,” Zimmer told reporters.

The US government will continue to encourage Taiwanese travelers to take advantage of the program, he said.

The focus on promoting travel to the US will continue through and after the Lunar New Year, Zimmer said, but he added that he was not aware of any specific plans for the Lunar New Year.

With Taiwan’s admission to the program on Nov. 1, Taiwanese citizens are no longer required to obtain a US visa at a cost of NT$4,800 per application.

However, Taiwanese travelers, like citizens of other countries in the program, need to apply online for electronic travel authorization for a US$14 fee.

Once obtained, the authorization is valid for a two-year period.

Zimmer said the AIT does not have detailed, specific statistics on how many Taiwanese visited the US under the program last month or how many people were rejected since the program has only been running for a month.

“We have had positive feedback from travelers and hope they will continue to take advantage of this efficient system for tourist and short-term business travel,” he said.

Asked whether any Taiwan nationals traveling to the US under the program had been denied entry, Zimmer declined to give any information, citing the Privacy Act.

As for the institute’s plans to scale down its visa affairs section, Zimmer said such downsizing has not yet begun.

“When that time does come, we will do so in strict accordance with local labor laws,” he said, adding it is an inevitable result of the program and will be very difficult to do so.