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Almost 2,000 visitors unaccounted for after visa free entry to Taiwan

2018/12/17 18:06:26

CNA file photo

Taipei, Dec. 17 (CNA) Nearly 2,000 people from countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Oceania who entered Taiwan visa free between Aug. 1, 2016 and March 31 this year cannot be accounted for, the Legislature's Budget Center said Monday.

As of March 31, there were 1,946 people from those countries who had overstayed their visas and remained unaccounted for, the center said, citing data from the National Audit Office.

In a report, the center said there are no exit records for 1,946 visitors from the 18 countries listed in the government's New Southbound Policy and their whereabouts are not known to Taiwan authorities.

In addition, 1,441 visitors from the 10 Southeast Asian countries, Australia, New Zealand, India and other South Asian countries were found to have used the documents of another person to remain in Taiwan, while 606 were found to be working illegally, according to the report.

As of August, Taiwan was offering visa-free entry to visitors from New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia as well as from Australia, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines on a trial basis, as part of its southbound policy, the report noted.

However, only New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia had reciprocated, according to the report, which was submitted by the center to the legislative Foreign and National Defense Committee as part of the screening of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (MOFA) 2019 budget.

Visitors from Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and India are eligible to enter Taiwan visa free under certain conditions, while only Indonesia offers the same treatment to Taiwan travelers, the report stated.

The New Southbound Policy, introduced by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) after she took office in May 2016, seeks to establish closer ties with the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Australia, New Zealand and India.

The report said that since November 2015 when the government agreed to allow tourists from Southeast Asian countries to apply for electronic entry visas for high-quality group tours, it has been found that many of them leave the groups after entering Taiwan or engage in activities other than the purpose stated on their visas.

The center said MOFA should evaluate the impact of its visa regulations on Taiwan's tourism and security, and the results should be used as reference for the government in deciding whether to maintain its visa-free policies to these countries.

(By Wang Cheng-chung and Flor Wang)