Taiwan extends visa-free entry for Brunei nationals

James Kon & Azlan Othman

Taiwan on Thursday announced a one-year extension of trial visa-free entry for nationals from Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, and Russia from August 1, 2020, to July 31, 2021.

However, in line with COVID-19 prevention measures, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced entry regulations for foreigners during the outbreak.

The adjustments to visa measures for foreign nationals are based on previously existing policies and do not take precedence over temporary border control measures put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether restrictions will be relaxed for foreign nationals (apart from the exempted groups listed above) coming to Taiwan for tourism depends on the assessment of the worldwide development of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To further promote the New Southbound Policy, which seeks closer exchanges with countries in the region, especially those in Southeast Asia, a meeting was held on May 29, concerning visa measures.

Topics of discussion were whether to extend trial visa-free entry for nationals from Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, and Russia and whether to adjust the Project for Simplifying Visa Regulations for High-end Group Tourists from Southeast Asian Countries and the Online Application for Taiwan Travel Authorisation Certificate for nationals from Southeast Asian countries.

The agencies participating in the meeting, having evaluated the status and outcomes of the measures so far, jointly agreed that from August 1, 2020, trial visa-free entry for nationals from Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, and Russia would be extended for one year until July 31, 2021.

The Project for Simplifying Visa Regulations for High-end Group Tourists from Southeast Asian Countries will continue for another year, until December 31, 2021.

Meanwhile from August 1, 2020, those applying for conditional visa-free entry that hold visas for Japan or South Korea must present a record of entry into one of these countries.

Since the trial visa-free entry measures were first introduced, the number of visitors from related countries has risen steadily.

According to statistics from the National Immigration Agency, the number of nationals from Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, and Russia visiting Taiwan under these measures in 2019 increased by 34.49, 100.37, 41.32, and 407.55 per cent respectively, indicating that the measures have had a considerable effect in attracting foreign travellers.

Taiwan will continue to review and fine-tune these measures, seeking to attract even more visitors while still ensuring border and public security.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also continue to communicate with the governments of related countries to enhance visa treatment for Taiwan nationals and make their overseas travel more convenient.

Despite Taiwan’s announcement of the one-year extension of the trial visa-free entry for Brunei nationals, the government of Brunei Darussalam is currently prohibiting Brunei citizens and residents to leave the country, as advised by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Those who intend to leave and enter Brunei are still required to obtain clearance from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).