Taiwan to resume special visa program for Vietnamese groups with stricter rules

By Nguyen Quy   March 7, 2019 | 01:03 am PT
Taiwan to resume special visa program for Vietnamese groups with stricter rules
Tourists launch sky lanterns along a railway in New Taipei, Taiwan. Photo by Shutterstock/NH
After a two-month suspension, Taiwan will resume issuance of electronic visas for Vietnamese tour groups under a special program.

The Kuan Hung visa program, launched in 2015, allows citizens of six countries including Vietnam to visit Taiwan by applying for electronic visas without paying visa fees.

Last December, Taiwanese authorities decided to suspend the program following the infamous case of 152 Vietnamese tourists going missing en masse after arriving in the territory on tourist visas.

The Taiwanese Tourism Bureau Wednesday announced that the visa program will be resumed on March 20 for select Vietnamese travel agencies under stricter regulations, media reports said.

Vietnamese tourists arriving in Taiwan under the Kuan Hung visa program will now have to go through customs checkpoints with tour leaders; and they have to arrive and leave the territory at the same time as the group leaders.

Travel firms caught violating the e-visa regulations will be subject to fines. Applications for future e-visas will be rejected for two months if up to three tourists in a group exceed the registered length of stay or disappear.

If more than six tourists registered with a travel firm abscond, it will be removed from the list.

In recent years, Vietnam has been among the biggest feeder markets for Taiwan’s tourism boom. Taiwan has also emerged as a promising destination for Vietnamese workers looking for jobs overseas. Vietnam sent 65,000 workers to Taiwan last year, accounting for nearly half of all workers sent overseas.

Official statistics from Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau shows 225,702 foreign tourists have arrived in Taiwan under the visa program since 2015.

Of them, 566 people have gone missing to work illegally in the territory, and Vietnamese citizens account for 72 percent of the total, the Focus Taiwan newspaper reported.

As a result of the sharp increase in the number of unaccounted Vietnamese tourists, Taiwanese authorities have shortened the length of visas issued to Vietnamese from 30 to 14 days.

According to National Immigration Agency data, 56 tourists of the 152 missing Vietnamese tourists were still at large in Taiwan as of February 19. Some of the people who surrendered or were found by police have admitted that they hoped to work in Taiwan illegally.

Four people, two Taiwanese and two Vietnamese, involved in the mass disappearance have been indicted on charges of forging travel documents, breaching the Employment Service Act and violating the Human Trafficking Prevention law.

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