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MOFA vows review NT$1,600 passport application charge

By Joseph Yeh--The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday pledged to look into the passport application fee amid criticism from an opposition lawmaker that it is too expensive.

During a legislative session Monday, opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Guan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said the price for e-passport applications is now set at NT$1,600.

However, according to her calculations, the cost for making a Republic of China passport is only around NT$699. The legislator accused MOFA of making a profit out of the passport application fee.

She and several lawmakers across party lines jointly threatened to freeze the ministry's annual budget until it agrees to review the cost-price margin.

Asked to comment, MOFA spokesman Steve Hsia yesterday said the ministry will conduct a review to see whether it can lower the application fee.

But Hsia stressed that the costs involved in making a new biometric passport include not only personnel administrative costs at the ministry but also printing fees, as well as payment for the machines that make these more advanced travel documents.

He said the application fee for an R.O.C. passport is low relative to other countries.

Compared to nearby countries, such as China and Thailand, Taiwan's passports are slightly more expensive, but remain much cheaper than the United States, Japan and Australia, according to MOFA.

Such criticism has emerged in the context of an increase in Taiwanese applying for newly issued biometric e-passports to replace traditional ones. Biometric e-passports include machine-readable permits that feature a biochip — a requirement for travel to the U.S. under the recently established Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Applications for electronic passports grew 25 percent in October from a year earlier following Taiwan's inclusion in the VWP, MOFA said.

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