Six Taiwanese tourists arrived in New York on Thursday as the first from their disputed island to be allowed to visit the United States without visas, officials said.
A visa waiver program is expected to increase the number of Taiwanese tourists to the United States from 400,000 to 600,000 a year. Photo: AFP/gary718/shutterstock.com
Taiwan is the first territory of any kind which does not have formal diplomatic relations with the United States to get visa waiver status, said its de facto ambassador in New York, Andrew Kao.
The visa breakthrough is also a diplomatic victory for the Taipei government against China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan and vigorously lobbies to stop international recognition of its government.
"This is indicative of the solid relationship between Taiwan and the United States, as well as the concrete accomplishment of Taiwan's viable diplomacy," said Kao, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York.
He estimated that the visa waiver will increase the number of Taiwanese tourists to the United States from 400,000 to 600,000 a year.
Steve Chang, general manager of Taiwanese carrier China Airlines, said that booking had increased significantly since the visa waiver was announced last month.
Although Taiwan is only recognized by 25 countries around the world, its officials said Taiwanese can now travel to 129 countries without a visa.
Taiwan and China divided into nationalist and communist camps at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. The United States switched recognition from Taiwan to mainland China in 1979.