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Taiwan's U.S. visa-waiver status on schedule: minister

2012/05/26 15:50:01

Taipei, May 26 (CNA) Taiwan should be included in the United States' visa waiver program (VWP) in the second half of this year, in line with the Taiwan government's original schedule, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said Saturday.

The application and review procedures have been going smoothly, Yang said, answering queries by local media before attending an exhibition on African culture.

The minister's remarks came after Vice President Wu Den-yih said Friday at a tourism exposition that Taiwan is likely to be included in the VWP program in October. Wu was the first official to give a definite timeframe for the visa-free approval.

"The vice president's statement concurred with our schedule, which is the second half of this year," Yang said.

Asked if the U.S. Congress has been notified of Taiwan's application, Yang said that "there are certain procedures to go through," adding he cannot divulge further details due to an agreement with the U.S.

In March, U.S. officials from the Department of Homeland Security visited Taiwan to review the country's procedures for passport checks and border controls. The visit was a necessary part of Taiwan's application for visa-free status from the U.S.

Taiwan obtained VWP candidacy status last December. If included in the program, Taiwanese passport holders will be granted visa-free stays of up to 90 days. So far, 127 countries have granted visa waiver privileges to Taiwan nationals.

Meanwhile, the minister said he is striving to communicate with Panama's government over a "very regrettable" misunderstanding.

When Yang attended Guatemalan presidential inauguration in January, he met with Panama's Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, a move that angered President Ricardo Martinelli, according to media reports.

At the time, Martinelli had fallen out with Varela, leader of the opposition party.

"I never intended to interfere with another country's internal affairs," he said, adding that with patience and sincerity, the misunderstanding should be fixed.

(By Nancy Liu)