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Taiwan makes it easier for overseas Chinese to visit

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan has eased restrictions on visits by overseas Chinese people, making it easier for Chinese nationals who live in foreign countries or in Hong Kong or Macau to visit the island, National Immigration Agency (NIA) officials said yesterday.

Starting Tuesday, Chinese people can come to Taiwan for sightseeing as long as they have lived in a foreign country or in Hong Kong and Macau for at least one year, the officials said.

Previous regulations required them to have lived overseas for at least four years. Overseas Chinese must still have a job in the countries and areas where they live, or be the spouse or lineal relative of such overseas Chinese, to apply for a tourist permit to visit Taiwan.

Taiwan only began opening the doors for tourist visits by Chinese people who live overseas, in Hong Kong or Macau, in 2002.

Chinese people who meet the requirements can apply to visit Taiwan for tourism by providing their employment certificates, proofs of family relationship, identification cards, application forms, travel plans and itineraries.

The applications can be filed with the agency either by travel agents or by the applicants themselves, the official added.

In light of the increased demand for urgent entry permits by Chinese people wishing to come to Taiwan, the immigration agency has set up a mechanism to streamline the processing of travel documents of Chinese tourists on a case-by-case basis in order to increase efficiency, the official said.

Under the revisions, travel agencies who put down a NT$1 million (US$31,250) security deposit with the Travel Agent Association of ROC Taiwan for arranging tours for overseas Chinese to visit Taiwan will not be charged NT$100,000 for each inbound-Chinese tourist who goes missing because there have been no case of overstaying or absconding reported since Taiwan opened its doors to overseas Chinese tourists in 2002, according to the official.

However, a fine will still be imposed for inbound Chinese tourists from Hong Kong, Macau or China who overstay their visas or go missing, according to the official.

It has become common for Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan since the two sides first launched direct flights in 2008.

The number of visitors from China has been on the rise, since direct flights and flight destinations were expanded in July this year.

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