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September 22, 2017

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Visa waiver seen as milestone in US friendship

TAIPEI -- The United States' recent announcement that Taiwan has been included in its Visa Waiver Program (VWP) marks a new high in bilateral ties, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said yesterday.

"The privilege granted to Taiwanese nationals means that Taiwan-U.S. relations have reached their highest point over the past 30 years," said Bruce Linghu, director general of the ministry's Department of North American Affairs.

The program, to be implemented Nov. 1, frees Taiwan's citizens from going through the cumbersome process of applying for a U.S. visa and saves them NT$4,800 (US$163.70) per application. It will bring huge benefits to both the tourism and aviation sectors, Linghu said.

Taiwanese nationals will still need to apply for electronic travel authorization online for a fee of US$14. The authorization will be valid for a two-year period.

The program is expected to save Taiwanese people an estimated NT$600 million (US$20.5 million) in visa application fees per year, Linghu said in a briefing on the program in Taipei.

Also at the briefing, Morgan Parker, chief of the Consular Section of the American Institute in Taiwan, gave his assurance that the authorization system will be "very easy to use," with registration and results generated in minutes.

Parker was referring to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is required for Taiwanese nationals before they travel to the U.S., as is the case for all the other 36 countries in the VWP.

U.S. officials will conduct a review two years after the program kicks off to check whether Taiwan still meets the requirements for designation as a participating country.

"The visits will verify if the security is still in place," said Logan Bowman, program manager of the ESTA.

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