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MOFA to hold nationwide briefings on US VWP

TAIPEI -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that it will hold a series of briefings around Taiwan to introduce more details of the visa-free privilege granted to Taiwanese nationals wishing to travel to the United States.

“We're planning to hold briefings in central, southern and eastern Taiwan starting next week” to make the public more aware of the details of the U.S. visa waiver program, said Bruce Linghu, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of North American Affairs.

The ministry will also provide pamphlets on the requirements for the visa-free privilege, which will take effect next month, at places such as the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Linghu said at a regular news briefing.

He said that the ministry will also work with the Taipei office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on making information on the new initiative available for Taiwanese nationals.

He added that related information is also available on the websites of the foreign ministry and the AIT, which is the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Taiwan's inclusion in the visa waiver program, making it the 37th participant in the program.

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

Under the new procedure, Taiwanese nationals who want to travel to the U.S. will simply have to apply for an electronic travel authorization online for a fee of US$14. The online approval will allow multiple stays of up to 90 days over a two-year period.

Meanwhile, Linghu rebutted the statement made by Shih Wen-yi, deputy director-general of the Centers for Disease Control, on his own Facebook page that the U.S. did not grant Taiwan a complete visa free privilege because Taiwanese nationals still have to register online.

Such information is “wrong,” Linghu said, adding that the online application for electronic travel authorization is a requirement for the U.S. border control and homeland security.

Nationals from countries participating in the U.S. visa waiver program have to go through the procedure, Linghu added.

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