100th nation grants visa-waiver status

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry yesterday announced that it had reached its goal of having 100 countries or territories grant Republic of China (R.O.C.) passport holders visa-waiver privileges, in celebration of the country’s centennial, after the Malaysian government announced it too would offer Taiwanese people visa-free entry. “The addition of Malaysia means that we have realized the milestone of securing such privileges from 100 countries around the world by the end of this year to celebrate the country’s 100th birthday,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang in a press conference yesterday. From now on, Taiwanese nationals can enter Malaysia visa free for a stay of up to 15 days. Yang also noted that travelers must have R.O.C passports with six months or more left on their validity, as well as proof of a return ticket or flight on to another destination within the 15 days. Based on the number of Taiwanese visitors to Malaysia in 2010 — which reached 210,000 — Yang said, the visa-waiver announcement was expected to save an estimated NT$50 million (US$1.7 million) in visa fees annually for Taiwanese travelers visiting the Southeast Asian country.

At present, the 100 countries and areas represent 94 percent of the most popular destinations for local travelers, he noted.  Yang said the visa-waiver privilege would contribute significantly to Taiwan-Malaysia economic, cultural, educational and agricultural exchanges. Malaysia’s latest announcement also ended a political row between the two countries.

Malaysia had previously stopped its automatic issuing of landing visas on Aug. 15 of last year in an attempt to prevent foreign migrant workers from abusing the program. Prior to the ban, the East Asian country had offered landing visa privileges to Taiwanese citizens since 2009.  The move angered lawmakers who jointly demanded the Foreign Ministry take a stronger stance in demanding Malaysia lift its ban on issuing landing visas for Taiwanese passport holders by the end of February, or they would ask the government to stop granting visa-free treatment to Malaysian passport holders in protest. Taiwan has granted visa-free privileges to Malaysians since 2002.