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Don't wear colored contacts for passport photos: MOFA

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday urged nationals not to wear circle and colored contact lenses while taking photographs used to apply for passports to avoid being denied entry to foreign countries.

Michael Yiin (尹新垣), deputy head for MOFA's Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA), said yesterday that the bureau has recently received reports that some Taiwanese nationals were denied entry to foreign countries because the photographs on their passports were significantly different from their appearance.

“Some custom officials in the United States and in the European Union have difficulties matching the photographs on R.O.C. passports and the people holding them because the passport holders were wearing circle or colored contact lens when they took the photographs,” he noted.

Though wearing these kind of contact lenses does not violate official International Civil Aviation Organization regulations, Yiin called on Taiwan nationals not to do so because they risked having their visa application denied by a foreign country or being denied entry during overseas visits.

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which represents U.S. interest in Taipei and handles the visa-applications of Taiwanese nationals, has already posted on its website that colored contact lenses are not acceptable in its photo specifications for applying a U.S visa, he added.

A circle contact lens, also known as a big eye contact lens, is a cosmetic contact lens that makes the eye's iris appear larger. It has become a trend in Taiwan and other Asian countries over the past years.

Pay Back Money: MOFA

Yiin said yesterday that a total of 83 Taiwanese nationals that previously borrowed money from MOFA's representative offices around the world have yet to return the money they owe, a total of around US$50,000, he added.

He urged these people to return the money as soon as possible or the ministry would take legal actions to reclaim the debt, he noted.

Citing a MOFA emergency relief regulation, the official explained that the ministry's overseas representative offices would offer monetary assistance of up to US$500 per person to a Taiwanese national who needed emergency assistance when traveling aboard.

Those who received the money are required to repay the debt within 60 days, he said. However, some of them have failed to do so.

The ministry has an existing mechanism in place for reclaiming the debt, Yiin noted.

MOFA puts the name of those who borrowed money from the overseas offices into its passport application system. Once a person who owes money applies to renew his or her passport, MOFA will ask them to repay the money first before they can receive their new passport, Yiin added.

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