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First visa-free Taiwanese travellers depart for US
Publication Date : 02-11-2012
A flight carrying the first group of Taiwanese travellers to enjoy visa-free entry to the US departed yesterday evening for Los Angeles after a ceremony at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport marking the historic milestone in bilateral ties.
The China Airlines (CAL) flight took off at 5:10pm with 343 passengers onboard. Seventy-one of them are expected to make use of Taiwan's newly effective inclusion in the US Visa Waiver Programme (WVP), according to the airline.
The flight is scheduled to arrive at the airport in LA at 1:40pm Thursday.
Speaking at the pre-flight ceremony, Foreign Minister David Lin said Taiwan's inclusion in the programme marks another important landmark for Taiwan-US ties.
Based on the principle of reciprocity, starting from November 1 Taiwan has also extended the length of stay for visiting US nationals in Taiwan from 30 days to 90 days, he added.
The minister said he hopes that such policies could lead to more bilateral exchanges in trade, tourism, culture and academia.
Christopher Marut, director of the American Institute in Taiwan's (AIT) Taipei office, joined the ceremony on behalf of the US government. Marut welcomed Taiwanese people to visit his country under the visa-exemption programme.
Maurt himself also took the same CAL flight to attend a meeting in Washington, according to the AIT.
Taiwan officially gained admission to the US VWP on November 1, making it the 37th country to join the programme and the seventh in Asia Pacific, following Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand.
The US is the 129th country or territory that has granted Taiwanese passport holders visa-free treatment or landing visa entry.
The new procedure frees business travellers and tourists from going through the cumbersome process of applying for a US visa and saves them the standard NT$4,800 (US$164) visa fee.
Instead, Taiwanese visiting America for business or pleasure need only to apply for electronic travel authorisation online and pay a US$14 fee.
They are required to present a machine-readable newly issued biometric e-passport.
The authorisation allows multiple stays of up to 90 days over a two-year period in the US.
According to the AIT, thousands of applications for travel authorisation from Taiwanese have been received over the past month since Taiwan's VWP membership was announced October 2.
CAL Chairman Chang Chia-juch yesterday said the VWP is expected to boost air ticket sales to the US by 20 to 30 per cent, which is good news amid the sluggish global air travel conditions.
Local travel agencies also noted that two to three times more people are now considering visiting the US during the upcoming Lunar New Year in February 2013, compared to the same period last year.
With reports from CNA