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AIT calls on applicants to apply for visa waiver on official site

2019/03/26 15:15:36

AIT spokesperson Amanda Mansour

Taipei, March 26 (CNA) The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on Tuesday urged people who apply to visit America visa-free to use the U.S. government's official website to avoid being charged extra fees.

There is only one official U.S. government Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), said AIT spokesperson Amanda Mansour.

"We want to warn (applicants) to make sure the web address (used for an ESTA application) is the correct address. (The application fee) is US$14. If it's more than US$14, you are probably in the wrong place," she said.

The AIT's comments came in response to concerns voiced by Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏), honorary chairman of the Taiwan's Consumers' Foundation (消基會), earlier this week.

In a letter published by the Chinese-language Liberty Times on Monday, Cheng said the foundation has received several complaints from ESTA applicants in Taiwan who said they were overcharged during the process, including one applicant who paid US$89.

They later found out that they paid more than the official rate because they applied for visa-free authorization on non-official sites that look almost identical to the official DHS website.

Cheng urged the AIT to warn the public not to make similar mistakes in the future.

In response, Mansour called on ESTA applicants to apply only through the official site.

"There is no reason to work with a third party to apply for ESTA, as frequently third parties charge extra fees and sometimes don't have the latest information on the regulations," she said.

Taiwan was admitted to the U.S. Visa-Waiver Program (VWP) in November 2012.

Since then, eligible Republic of China (Taiwan) passport holders have been able to travel to the U.S. for stays of 90 days or less without the need for a visa.

In order to travel under the VWP, however, travelers must first receive travel authorization through the ESTA and meet all eligibility requirements in advance of travel.

According to U.S. statistics, the number of Taiwanese traveling to the United States rose a total of 60 percent in the first five years of the program to about 475,000 travelers in 2017.

The U.S. is now the top long-haul destination for outbound Taiwanese travelers.

(By Joseph Yeh)
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