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Schatz’s statement on Taiwan’s visa waiver

MEDIA RELEASE

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced that Taiwan has been designated to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

This announcement is in response to President Obama’s Executive Order earlier this year.

The Executive Order tasked the Departments of State and Homeland Security with increasing efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals of Visa Waiver Program participants.

The Visa Waiver Program enables qualified passport holders of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business (visitor (B) visa purposes only) for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

Taiwan joins 36 participants in the visa waiver program and eligible Taiwan passport holders will be able to visit the United States without visas as of Nov. 1, 2012.

During APEC in November of last year, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz met with U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary John Bryson and discussed the significance and impact of the Visa Waiver Program to Hawaii, its tourism industry and its economy.

In May of this year, Schatz led a delegation to Taiwan where he attended the inauguration of President Ma Ying-Jeou.

He had a personal audience with Ma to discuss economic cooperation in the areas of tourism, higher education, and energy and they discussed the importance of the visa waiver. Ma has been a strong advocate for securing visa-free status for Taiwanese travelers.

Taiwan has a population of 23 million and in 2011, Hawaii welcomed 20,000 visitors from Taiwan. This number is expected to rise significantly as did the number of visitors from South Korea after it received visa waiver status.

In 2008, the Republic of Korea was added to the visa waiver program. In 2007, there were 42,000 visitors from South Korea.

The numbers have increased steadily every year since then and in 2011, Hawaii welcomed more than 100,000 South Korean travelers.

Hawaii is on track to reach its 2012 target of 146,000 visitors from South Korea.

Assigned by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to lead Asia Pacific strategy, Schatz says that similar growth patterns are possible with Taiwan.

“Our conversation with President Ma was extremely productive, and this action by the Department of Homeland Security will solidify our relationship with Taiwan. Increasing ease of access to Hawaii is great news for our economy. It will be much easier to travel to Hawaii from Taiwan, and puts us on track for steady growth in this market. Hawaii’s relationship with Taiwan has never been stronger.”

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