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September 25, 2017

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New passport policy to begin July 1

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday announced that starting on July 1 next Friday, all first-time passport applicants, regardless of their ages, will have to complete their applications in person at designated governmental offices.

 The announcement came following the near-completion of a four-month-trial period of the new passport application procedures begging from March 1 and extending to June 30 have proved to be successful, Thomas Chen, director-general of the ministry's Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA) said at a regular briefing yesterday.

 "The in-person application policy was introduced to prevent fraud and lift Taiwan's passport security credentials in the international society," Chen noted.

 The latest policy required first-time passport applicants to confirm their identity at one of the 394 household registration offices before having a travel agent handle their applications.

 Travelers can also apply for passports in person at the MOFA's four branches around the nation in Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, and Hualien, he added.

 Chen pointed out that the procedures apply to applicants of all ages.

 Applicants under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult relative since citizens of that age do not yet have national identity cards, he said.

 Applicants who qualify for an ID card should obtain one before applying for a passport, he said.

 During the trial run, passport applicants are not required to make a personal appearance.

 Currently, about 70 percent of passports are applied for through travel agents, a simple process since applicants only have to submit a photo and related documents to the agents.

 However, it is difficult for the government to ensure that the submitted photo is actually of the applicant in this scenario, Chen said.

Complaints About Inconvenience

 In response to complaints that such procedures could be time-consuming and stressful, especially with the upcoming summer vacation when many parents are taking their children for oversea tours, Chen admitted the new procedure could be initially inconvenient for nationals but it is being done to enhance Taiwan's passport security.

 The latest procedures will give the country an edge if it wants to be given entry to visa-free programs in more countries such as the United States.

 To facilitate the application for those who cannot make the application in person during regular government office hours, Chen noted that the ministry's four branches will extend their working hours to 8 p.m. every Wednesday to accept applications.

 Chen also added that many household registration offices are also offering to extend their service hours during weekdays or on weekends to help those people who cannot come during regular operating hours.

 When asked to explain the legal basis of the in-person application, Chen said the Executive Yuan has recently approved an executive order to carry out the new procedures.

 Related government branches will be discuss if an amendment to the Passport Act Enforcement Rules (護照條例施行細則) should be proposed in the future and be screened by the Legislative Yuan, he added.

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