Francisco Sánchez serves as the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. Follow him on Twitter @UnderSecSanchez.
We are on the brink of a new era. The United States’ commitment to Taiwan and its people have reached tremendous levels this year. As of November 1, 2012, people from Taiwan are able to visit the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The entry of Taiwan into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program will not only tremendously support the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, but also offer more opportunities to do business with each other, which enhances our economic partnership.
The goal of President Obama’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy is to attract 100 million visitors to the United States by the end of 2021. Taiwan will help us achieve this goal. During President Ma Ying-jeou’s time in office, the United States and Taiwan have made great progress towards our mutual goal of expanded opportunity and prosperity for both our nations. Taiwan has made great strides during the past few years to enhance its border security and travel systems. These efforts led Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to nominate and then approve Taiwan for the Visa Waiver Program.
The Visa Waiver Program will make international travel easier and encourage more visitors to the United States. Some found it frustrating to apply for a visa – from the fees to the long waits for interview appointments during school holidays and summer vacations. So we wanted to facilitate this process, while still being true to our national security goals. The recent decision to grant visa waiver status to travelers from Taiwan will make it easier for local businesspeople to explore opportunities in the United States and increase people-to-people interaction, which enhances our understanding of each other’s histories and cultures.
Taiwan is the 22nd largest source of foreign travelers to the United States, with approximately 300,000 travelers coming to the United States per year. These travelers contributed $1 billion per year on travel to the United States. The commencement of the visa waiver program for Taiwan citizens will significantly boost these figures, making this another milestone in our growing bilateral commercial relationship. We look forward to welcoming more visitors from Taiwan throughout the United States.