Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced on Thursday that the visa-free privilege extended to tourists from Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines and Russia will be extended for one year, effective from Aug. 1, 2020 to July 31, 2021.
However, the MOFA clarified that the policy does not constitute a relaxation of Taiwan's current ban on the entry of foreign tourists due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Whether restrictions on foreign nationals coming to Taiwan for tourism purposes will be relaxed depends on the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC's) assessment of the global pandemic situation," the MOFA said in a statement.
The decision to extend the visa-free treatment for the four countries was reached following assessments by relevant agencies in an inter-agency meeting on May 29, 2020, the MOFA said.
"Tourists from Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines and Russia had increased by 34.49 percent, 41.32 percent, 100.37 percent and 407.55 percent year-on-year respectively in 2019, indicating that the visa-free measures contributed to attracting foreign travelers," the MOFA said.
Taiwan's government gave visa-free treatment to selected countries beginning in 2016 under its "New Southbound Policy" which seeks to enhance closer exchanges with neighboring countries, especially in Southeast Asia.
Another decision reached in the inter-agency meeting was the extension of the Project for Simplifying Visa Regulations for High-end Group Tourists from Southeast Asian Countries (觀宏專案) until Dec. 31, 2021, the MOFA said.
The project, aimed at making it easier for financially capable tourists from India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos to visit Taiwan, was first implemented on Nov. 1, 2015 and is expiring on Dec. 31, 2020.
The foreign ministry also announced in its statement that starting Aug. 1, 2020, holders of Japanese or South Korean visas who wish to apply for conditional visa-free entry to Taiwan must present proof of entry in at least one of the two countries.
The ministry stressed that it will continue to refine its visa policies to attract foreign tourists while still ensuring border and public security.
Taiwan will seek the same visa treatment from other governments to make overseas travel by Taiwanese tourists more convenient, the statement said.