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Taiwan looking to expand visa-free privileges in Southeast Asia


The foreign ministry is looking into the possibility of opening visa-free entry to Taiwan to more countries in Southeast Asia. It’s part of the government’s New Southbound Policy, which aims to boost exchanges with Southeast Asian countries, India, Australia, and New Zealand.


Starting last August, Taiwan began allowing visitors from Thailand and Brunei to visit without a visa for 30 days. It also began allowing visa-free visits and on-line applications for travelers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. In October, it began allowing travelers from the Philippines to apply for visas on-line. All of these were instituted on a trial basis for one year.


Tourism bureau statistics show that between August and December of last year, arrivals from the New Southbound Policy’s target countries rose by 150,000 people. That’s a 22% increase over the same period the previous year. Tourist arrivals from Cambodia, Thailand and Brunei showed the largest increase in numbers of any country during that period.


The deputy chief of the foreign ministry’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, Winston Chung, spoke about the new measures on Monday at the legislature’s transportation committee. He said that at mid-year, the foreign ministry will begin evaluating the trials. So far, though, the target countries have not offered reciprocal privileges to visitors from Taiwan. Chung said that would be taken into consideration. 


Chung says the foreign ministry is mulling the possibility of extending visa-free travel to visitors from Indonesia and six other APEC countries, and adjusting visa privileges for visitors from six countries in South Asia.


“The (foreign) ministry will weigh the needs of business travelers and border security. When the time is right, we will invite related agencies to evaluate the situation together, and consider the feasibility of relaxing visa restrictions for high-level and business travelers from South Asian countries, and possible related measures," said Chung.