US visa-waiver program a success, official says

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Dec 05, 2012 - Page 3

Taiwan’s participation in the US Visa-Waiver Program has been implemented “very successfully,” a Taiwanese official said yesterday, just over a month after Taiwan was admitted to the program.

The implementation has been going very smoothly, although some Taiwanese nationals have been denied entry at US borders, said Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of North American Affairs.

A few Taiwanese travelers were barred from entering the US because they lied about having previously been denied a US visa, while others were rejected because they were trying to visit for purposes other than tourism or business, Linghu said.

To avoid such incidents, he said, people should be honest when applying online for the travel authorization — a requirement for visiting the US under its visa waiver program.

With Taiwan’s entry to the Visa-Waiver Program on Nov. 1, Taiwanese business travelers and tourists who hold e-passports no longer need to obtain a US visa, but instead simply need a travel authorization that is obtainable online and which allows for multiple stays of up to 90 days over a two-year period.

The approval rate of US travel authorization applications by Taiwanese applicants so far has been 99 percent, Linghu said.

In a reciprocal arrangement, US nationals are now able to visit Taiwan without a visa for up to 90 days instead of 30, which is expected to boost bilateral business exchanges, according to the ministry.

Meanwhile, Linghu said Taiwan and the US are still in talks on amendments to a bilateral agreement on privileges and immunities for diplomatic staff.

“We hope the talks will be completed as soon as possible,” he said, adding that there have been positive developments in the negotiations.

However, he declined to give further details, saying the negotiations are still in progress.

On the issue of a resumption of major trade talks between Taiwan and the US, Linghu said progress is being made.

The next round of bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) is scheduled to take place in Taiwan, he said, but added that this could change.

The TIFA was signed in 1994 as a framework for Taiwan-US dialogue on trade-related issues in the absence of diplomatic ties, but talks have been suspended since 2007, mainly because of disputes over US beef imports.