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First US flight with visa-free travelers fully booked

TAIPEI--The flight carrying the first group of Taiwanese enjoying visa-free access to the United States will depart today for Los Angeles, with all 375 seats booked in advance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The China Airlines CI006 (Delta 7732) flight is scheduled to take off at 5:10 p.m. from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

A ceremony will be held at the airport Thursday to mark the occasion and will be attended by Foreign Minister David Lin and the director of the Taipei office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Christopher Marut.

Taiwan officially gains admission to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Nov. 1.

The new procedure frees business travelers and tourists from going through the cumbersome process of applying for a U.S. visa and saves them the standard NT$4,800 (US$163.7) visa fee.

Instead, Taiwanese visiting the U.S. for business or pleasure need only to apply for an electronic travel authorization online and pay a US$14 fee. They are required to present a machine-readable passport.

The authorization allows multiple stays of up to 90 days over a two-year period in the United States.

According to the AIT, which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties, thousands of applications for travel authorization from Taiwanese have been received over the past month since Taiwan's VWP membership was announced Oct. 2.

The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said the U.S. VWP has also generated higher demand for e-passports in Taiwan.

A total of 96,047 e-passports were issued between Oct. 1 and Oct. 24, up 25 percent from the same period last year, the ministry said.

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