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Number of in-person passport applications rises: foreign ministry

Number of in-person passport applications rises: foreign ministry

Taipei, Dec. 29 (CNA) More than 300,000 Republic of China citizens have applied for their first passports in person so far this year, with the new biometric passports contributing to Taiwan's inclusion as a candidate for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP), a Foreign Ministry official said Thursday. Since the in-person passport application procedure was launched on July 1 for first-time applicants, over 300,000 citizens have applied as of Dec. 27, making an in-person passport application rate of 45.18 percent, said Thomas Chen, director-general of the ministry's Bureau of Consular Affairs. In the past, only about 25 percent of ROC citizens obtained their passports after applying in person, with 75 percent applying for their passports through travel agencies acting on their behalf, according to Chen. Taiwanese citizens can apply for their passports in person at the Bureau of Consular Affairs or authorized local household registration offices around the country. In addition, Chen said, a total of 3.88 million Taiwan passport holders have changed their passports to biometric electronic ones, a measure that has contributed to making it easier for Taiwan to gain visa waiver privileges in countries around the world. The 3.88 million biometric passports constituted 35 percent of all valid Taiwan passports in circulation, he said. Taiwan's biometric passport adheres to standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The passport has an implanted chip that contains a person's personal information and photograph to help prevent identity fraud, he added. Taiwan has also inked several agreements with the United States to qualify for the U.S. visa-free treatment, including a U.S.-Taiwan information-sharing agreement on counter-terrorism in August and another on lost or stolen passports in May.
From May 22, all lost or stolen Taiwan passports will become invalid, even if the passport is recovered within 48 hours, Chen said. The American Institute in Taiwan, the quasi U.S. embassy in Taiwan, announced on Dec. 22 Taiwan's candidacy for the VWP, although the U.S. set no timeframe for when Taiwan might actually qualify. Once admitted into the VWP, Taiwanese nationals traveling to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less will not need to obtain a visa, which presently costs about NT$4,340 (US$145).
Eligible travelers who wish to enter the U.S. under the VWP, nevertheless, must apply for authorization online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization and pay an administrative fee of US$14. At present, the U.S. has granted visa-free privilege for stays of up to 90 days to nationals of 36 countries and areas, six of which are located in Asia -- Singapore, Brunei, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. Taiwan, on the other hand, has visa-free entry or landing visa agreements with 124 nations or regions. (By Emmanuelle Tzeng and Deborah Kuo)


Updated : 2020-11-30 10:22 GMT+08:00