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Taiwan added to U.S. visa waiver program


Taiwan has been added to the U.S. visa waiver program, streamlining travel for thousands of eligible biometrically credentialed Taiwan passport holders, while maintaining strong security standards.

Taiwan will join 36 other countries in the program, which permits visa-free travel to the United States for eligible travelers visiting for 90 days or fewer for business or tourism.

In accordance with the visa waiver designation process, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (http://www.dhs.gov) determined that Taiwan complies with key security and information-sharing requirements, such as: enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States, timely reporting of lost and stolen passports, and the maintenance of counter-terrorism, law enforcement, border control, aviation and document security standards.

“This announcement is a major step forward in our long-standing economic partnership with Taiwan,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “Taiwan’s participation in the visa waiver program will not only stimulate tourism in the United States, it will also enable us to work together to maintain the strictest security standards.”

In 2011, the visa waiver program accounted for 18.3 million visits to the United States, or more than 60 percent of tourist and business travelers entering the United States by air.

Like other visa waiver program travelers, eligible Taiwan passport holders will be required to apply for advanced authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/), a DHS Web-based system. Eligible Taiwan passport holders with an approved ESTA will be able to visit the United States without visas as of November 1, 2012. Eligible Taiwan passports are biometrically credentialed.

The U.S. is the top destination for Taiwanese travelers, which previously granted approximately 400,000 visas each year to Taiwanese citizens, amounting to about US$20.47 million in visa fees. According to some estimates, Taiwanese visitors spend more than US$1.1 billion in the United States each year.

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