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Travel agents call for easier permits for Chinese tourists

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Travel agencies in Taiwan want to set up a counter at the airports to distribute entry documents for Chinese tourists coming here, following complaints by air carriers that they are currently doing most of the work in checking and distributing the permits.

Normally, a passenger has to get an entry permit before entering Taiwan.

But since Taiwan and mainland China do not have representative offices in each other's territories to handle entry permit issues for Chinese travelers, travel agencies in the past have had to mail entry permits back to China for the tourists to use before boarding flights to Taiwan.

To save time and avoid the travel documents getting lost in the mail, the travel agencies have asked air carriers to help them distribute the entry permits at the exit gates as the Chinese tourists are disembarking the plane, so they wouldn't have to mail the entry permits back to China.

If an air carrier has ascertained that a passenger has received an entry permit, it can allow the passenger to board the plane without the permit in China and pick up the entry permit upon the plane's landing in Taiwan.

The practice is known as “OK board” and is normally used under emergency conditions.

Some air carriers have tried to charge travel agencies fees for offering such a service.

Due to the quota of Chinese tourists, currently set at 7,200 daily temporarily until the end of the month, the airlines have also complained that they have been overloaded with this time-consuming task.

Hsu Kao-ching, secretary general of the Travel Agent Association of Taiwan, said that after coordinating with the air carriers, they have consented that no processing fees will be charged until the end of the month.

The travel agencies have also cut down on the “OK board” practice, although it cannot be avoided altogether, he said.

To provide Chinese tourists with speedier service, Hsu said the association has scouted a place at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and proposed allowing the tourists to pick up their entry permits there upon arrival.

But Taiwan's National Immigration Agency (NIA) recently rejected the suggested solution. It said that the passengers must have entry permits to be able to board a plane, adding that it is the security norm of traveling.

According to the law, air carriers will be fined heavily if they take on board passengers who have no legal entry permits.

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