Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou welcomed Taiwan’s inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program Oct. 2, describing it as an affirmation of robust bilateral ties.
“This positive development proves that our viable diplomacy policy is on the right track,” Ma said. “We appreciate the U.S. decision and hope to take two-way exchanges across every sector to new heights.”
The president’s remarks follow an earlier announcement by Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security that ROC nationals will be allowed to visit the U.S. without visas starting Nov. 1.
Napolitano, who was addressing the Global Travel and Tourism Conference in Washington, described Taiwan’s inclusion in the VWP as a “logical development” in close security, economic and people-to-people ties between the two nations.
David Yung-lo Lin, ROC minister of foreign affairs, said the government has made great efforts to meet VWP requirements, including exchanging information, issuing e-passports, and keeping its U.S. visa-refusal rate below the 3 percent threshold. Taipei has also inked agreements with Washington on programs governing anti-terrorism and combating serious crime, he added.
“The fact that Taiwan is the only VWP country with no formal U.S. diplomatic relations is evidence of close bilateral ties,” Lin said. “A total of 129 countries and territories now offer ROC nationals visa-free entry or landing visas, compared to 54 before Ma took office in May 2008.”
Timothy Chien-tien Yang, secretary-general of the ROC Presidential Office and former foreign minister, said the development reflects the deep level of trust coursing through Taiwan-U.S. relations.
“It took Taiwan more than two years to meet VWP requirements, a lengthy process that went off without a hitch,” he said.
Under the VWP, holders of ROC passports with household registration in Taiwan can enjoy visa-free business, pleasure or transit travel to the U.S. for 90 days or less. But they must first apply for authorization to travel to the U.S., an online process that carries an administrative fee of US$14.
Previously, ROC citizens had to endure a Byzantine application process involving reams of paperwork, a personal interview and NT$4,800 (US$164) visa-issuing charge.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 400,000 ROC citizens visit the U.S. each year, with this number expected to climb to 600,000 over the next 12 months as a result of Taiwan’s VWP admission.
The U.S. has granted visa-free privileges to 37 countries, seven of which are located in Asia—Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.