Taiwan mulls cutting visa-free travel to twice a year from 6 times for Thai, Philippines, Brunei tourists 

The Cabinet is also planning to raise penalties for overstaying 

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - In the wake of more Southeast Asian visitors on visa waiver programs involved in the sex trade during multiple trips to Taiwan, Taiwanese officials are planning to slash visa-free entry for Thai, Philippines, and Brunei visitors to twice a year from the existing six times. 

Minister Without Portfolio Chang Jing-sen (張景森) convened a cross-departmental meeting on Friday to review the country's visa waiver policies.

"While there was a remarkable increase of 410,000 visitors from Thailand, Brunei, and the Philippines in combination over the past two years thanks to the visa waiver program, more visitors from the three countries have also been found engaging in prostitution during their stay in Taiwan," he said.

Chang added that the number of tourists from Thailand and the Philippines grew by 95 percent and 48.5 percent, respectively, in average over the past two years. 

Taiwan News reported in April that a Thai national who had engaged in prostitution during multiple trips on a visitor visa in Taiwan tested positive for HIV, possibly infecting hundreds of clients, according to a statement issued by Tainan City police. 

To address the issue, the government has cut each visa-free stay to 14-15 days for citizens from the three countries, and is considering to slash the visa-free visits from six times a year to twice a year. Also, high-risk individuals will be targeted in the strengthened inspection and follow-up measures, he said. 

The official also clarified that the government will advance modern technology to better manage the cross-border travels instead of limiting the number of international travelers. More budgets on new technologies and task force will be allocated to contain crimes while more visitors coming to Taiwan. 

The mutual visa-free entry has been implemented between Taiwan and 18 New Southbound Policy countries, including 10 Southeast Asian countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos) and six South Asian countries (India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal), Australia and New Zealand, according to the New Southbound Policy Portal