Taipei, May 15 (CNA) Hong Kong officials announced Tuesday that starting Sept. 1, a long-anticipated travel program will be launched to provide a free and simplified online visa service to Taiwanese nationals visiting the special administrative region.
The new arrangement will allow Taiwanese travelers to make prior entry registration through the Internet for free, the officials said at the opening of the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei.
The officials explained that under the new scheme, Taiwanese tourists can apply for visas that allow up to two entries over a two-month period after successful online registration, with each visit being valid for a maximum of 30 days.
Once an application has been approved -- usually in a matter of minutes, the visas can be printed and taken to an airport for immigration procedures, officials said.
"We hope the service can help boost tourism exchanges between the two sides," said Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang.
Currently, Taiwanese nationals can only obtain electronic visas for Hong Kong through travel agencies, which usually charge fees of between NT$300 (US$10.17) and NT$800.
Hong Kong first announced proposals to expedite visa procedures for Taiwanese people last August, but failed to implement them sooner due to technical problems, Tsang explained.
Taiwan has been offering similar free online visa application services for Hong Kong and Macau travelers since September 2010.
(By Lee Hsin-Yin)