LCQ11: Immigration facilitation for Taiwan travellers

     Following is a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Hon Miriam Lau Kin-yee in the Legislative Council today (October 20):


     During his visit to Taiwan at the end of August this year, the Financial Secretary said that the question of granting visa-free access to Taiwan travellers should be "seriously studied and followed up".  Yet, the Taiwanese authorities have already announced that Hong Kong residents who were born in Hong Kong and are holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Passport may enter Taiwan immediately after being granted an entry permit from application on the Internet, which has significantly streamlined the process of entry permit application.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the average length of time it takes at present in processing each entry permit application by Taiwan travellers; the percentage of cases in which the HKSAR Government had refused to grant entry permits to Taiwan travellers in each of the past three years, and the main reasons for such refusals;

(b) given that there have been comments that since at present the Macao SAR Government has already agreed to grant visa-free access to Taiwan travellers, and the adoption of a corresponding arrangement by Hong Kong is technically quite feasible, of the latest progress of the study by the authorities on granting visa-free access to Taiwan travellers and the specific implementation timetable, the major factors of consideration involved; whether the authorities will, during the transitional period before visa-free access is granted to Taiwan travellers, implement other measures to improve the granting of entry permits, so as to attract Taiwan travellers to Hong Kong; if they will, of the details (including the way in which the measures are to be implemented and the details of charges); if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether it will strive to persuade the Taiwanese authorities to extend the coverage of the aforesaid streamlining measure for entry permit applications for Hong Kong residents to Hong Kong residents who were not born in Hong Kong but are holders of Hong Kong permanent identity cards?



     Last year, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government introduced several measures to enhance the immigration facilitation for Taiwan travellers.  On January 1, 2009, the Immigration Department lifted the restriction on the number of iPermit applications and extended the period of stay for holders of iPermit and multiple entry permits from 14 days to 30 days for each visit.  Since April 27, 2009, Taiwan travellers holding "Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents" (MTP) can even visit Hong Kong for seven days without the need to apply for any endorsement or entry permit.

     Our response to the three parts of Member's question is as follows:

(a) In the first nine months of this year, of around 1.7 million arrivals of Taiwan travellers, 80% held MTPs and hence enjoyed permit-free entry.  Of the remaining 20%, three-fourths held i-Permits, which were applied on the Internet through authorised airlines or their agents before departure.  Over 95% of the iPermit applications were given instant confirmation.  For the residual number of applications which could not be processed through the computer system, the applicants concerned need to apply for entry permits instead.

     The processing of the vast majority of applications for entry permit could be completed within two working days.  The main reason for refusing such applications is the applicants' failure to fulfil normal immigration requirements, such as insufficient validity period of travel document, doubtful purpose of visit, etc.  The following is the relevant percentage over the past three years:

Year                   iPermit
----                   -------
             Applications     Not Processed
             Received         by Computer
             ------------     --------------
2007           343,716         7,805 (2.3%)
2008           342,039        13,051 (3.8%)
2009           265,799         6,428 (2.4%)
2010           234,690         5,796 (2.5%)
(January to

Year              Entry Permit
----              ------------
             Applications     Applications
             Received         Refused
             ------------     ------------
2007           23,327          37 (0.2%)
2008           15,690          15 (0.1%)
2009            7,762          33 (0.4%)
2010            4,191           9 (0.2%)
(January to

(b) The HKSAR Government is actively studying measures to further facilitate the entry of Taiwan travellers.  Our major consideration is to strike a balance between the maintenance of effective immigration control and the provision of reciprocity.

(c) Currently, above 70% HKSAR passport holders are eligible to apply for entry permit for Taiwan under the streamlined measure implemented since last month.  In striving for maximal travel convenience for HKSAR passport holders under the principle of reciprocity, we will continue to follow up suggestions for further facilitating Hong Kong residents' visit to Taiwan.

Ends/Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Issued at HKT 16:23