Taiwan’s U.S. visa-waiver inclusion: MOFA

Taiwan’s latest visa-refusal rate has met the requirement of the United States for its Visa Waiver Program (VWP), but there is no timetable for Taiwan’s inclusion in the program due to various technical issues, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Thursday.

Taiwan’s U.S. visa refusal rate for fiscal year 2010 was 2.2 percent, much lower than the minimum requirement of 3 percent as stipulated for inclusion in the VWP and a great improvement over the 4.4 percent of 2009, said Bruce J.D. Linghu, director-general of MOFA’s Department of North American Affairs.

This was a “big step forward” to Taiwan’s eventual VWP inclusion, Linghu said, but a country’s visa-refusal rate is just one of the criteria considered when determining eligibility for VWP status.

To be admitted to the program, he said, a country must meet various requirements, such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data-sharing with the U.S. The country is also required to maintain high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards.

The U.S. expressed concern over Taiwan’s passport-application-and-issuance procedure, which does not require travelers to apply in person but is usually undertaken by travel agencies, Linghu said. William Stanton, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the U.S. representative office in the absence of official bilateral ties, said in a recent interview that Taiwan’s inclusion in the VWP “is not a political problem but a legal issue.”
Citing media reports that human trafficking rings have smuggled Chinese citizens into the United States by falsifying or tampering with Taiwanese passports, Stanton said that this problem results from Taiwanese citizens not being required to apply for passports in person.

With this in mind, a new procedure will be tested in Taiwan next year requiring visa applicants to complete passport application in person, Linghu said. The measure will later be implemented nationwide, he added. The two sides will probably need to reach agreements on a number of issues, such as anti-terrorism. Linghu said. Moreover, it will take collaboration between at least four governmental agencies to secure VWP eligibility, he noted.