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U.S. announces Taiwan's inclusion in visa waiver program (update)

ROC Central News Agency

2012/10/03 00:54:14

Washington, Oct. 2 (CNA) The United States announced Taiwan's membership in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Tuesday.

Secretary Janet Napolitano of U.S. Department of Homeland Security made the announcement at the Global Travel and Tourism Conference at the State Department.

Napolitano said she believes the number of Taiwanese visitors to the U.S. will increase as a result of the visa waiver program.

She said Taiwan's inclusion in the program symbolizes close economic ties between the U.S. and Taiwan.

Taiwan becomes the 37th country globally to obtain visa waiver treatment from the United States and the seventh in the Asia Pacific region, after Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Brunei and South Korea.

In Taiwan, Presidential Office Secretary-General Timothy Yang lauded the U.S. decision as a milestone in bilateral ties and proof of the ever-closer friendship between Taipei and Washington.

Soon after the announcement, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency put Taiwan on its list of visa waiver countries.

Inclusion in the program, which goes into effect Nov. 1, means that Taiwan's passport holders will be granted visa-free stays of up to 90 days in the United States.

The initiative is expected to benefit both countries. The VWP is one of the key components of U.S. President Barack Obama's stated goal of increasing travel and tourism to America.

It frees Taiwan's citizens from going through the cumbersome process of applying for a U.S. visa and saves them the NT$4,800 (US$163.7) expense.

Under the new procedure, which will take effect one month from the date of the announcement, Taiwanese nationals who want to travel to the United States will simply have to register basic information online and pay a US$14 fee.

The online approval will allow multiple stays of up to 90 days over a two-year period.

Washington's approval of Taiwan's inclusion in the program comes after a lengthy screening process.

Taiwan obtained VWP candidacy status in December 2011 after years of effort to join the program.

A group of more than 10 officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) then visited Taiwan in early March to further evaluate Taiwan's bid, inspecting Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and other procedures.

(By Tony Liao, Ann Chen and Christie Chen)

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