MOFA to ease visa rules for New Southbound Policy countries

The Republic of China (Taiwan) will expand or implement simplified visa regulations starting June 1 for passport holders from South and Southeast Asian nations, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a statement released April 12, the MOFA said the decision was made after an interagency meeting held two days earlier and aims to enhance exchanges and cooperation across the board with countries covered by the government's New Southbound Policy.

One of the key components of President Tsai Ing-wen's national development strategy, the initiative seeks to deepen agricultural, business, cultural, education, trade and tourism links with Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the ministry, the visa-free privileges starting last August on a 12-month trial basis to qualified citizens from Brunei and Thailand will be extended to July 31 next year, with the same treatment offered to citizens of the Philippines under a one-year trial.

Citing statistics from the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the MOFA said visitor arrivals from Brunei and Thailand rose 52 percent and 57 percent, respectively, last year, with the number from the latter surging nearly 92 percent year on year during the first two months of 2017.

Another new measure will allow citizens of Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam who meet certain requirements to apply online for an ROC Travel Authorization Certificate, which allows single stays of up to 30 days and multiple entries within a period of three months.

In addition, e-visas will be granted to business travelers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka who receive recommendations from the branch offices of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA). Individuals from Bhutan and Sri Lanka will be able to apply for tourist visas to Taiwan.

According to the Office of Trade Negotiations under the Executive Yuan, the number of travelers from the 18 New Southbound Policy countries increased 42.8 percent year on year to 68,000 in January, reflecting the effectiveness of the government initiative in expanding Taiwan's tourism source markets.

In a similar move aimed at boosting visitor arrivals from these countries, the Tourism Bureau announced the same day amendments to existing rules promoting incentive travel in Taiwan.

The measure offers increased subsidies for travel groups from 14 New Southbound Policy countries for stays of more than four days to attend cultural performances and receptions. Groups from Japan and South Korea that stay for at least three days will also receive subsidies to attend cultural performances.

According to bureau statistics, more than 42,000 individuals in 297 incentive travel groups from 10-plus countries visited Taiwan last year, bringing in at least US$27 million in tourism revenue to local businesses.

Source: Taiwan Today