Taipei, Thailand's top envoy to Taiwan said Tuesday that his office has decided to outsource visa applications to a private company, which he claimed will provide better service and improve the security of its representative office, although prices will rise.
Taiwanese tourism business representatives told local media Monday that the Thailand Trade and Economic Office Taipei has informed them of its plans to outsource its visa-application service to a private visa application center starting Oct. 1.
In the future, tour group visa applications will have to be made to the visa application center, for an additional cost of NT$470 (US$15.3) per application.
Tourism business representatives complained that Taiwan has given visa-free entry to Thai nationals for two years but instead of reciprocating, the Thai government has instead raised the cost of visa applications for Taiwanese.
Explaining the decision, Thailand's representative to Taiwan Thongchai Chasawath said the decision was made to offer higher quality service to visa applicants, and to beef up the security of the office. He did not elaborate.
Currently, the Thailand Trade and Economic Office Taipei handles 2,800 visa applications per day, which office staff are unable to cope with.
The situation has been going on for 17 years since the office was established and the representative, who took office four months ago, said he decided to make a change so that the office can provide better service.
The application service has been shunted off to a private company, VFS Global, which will begin to offer Thai visa application services at its Taipei and Kaohsiung visa application centers this October, the envoy said.
Thailand's representative offices in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have been using VFS Global since 2005, he added.
According to its website, the Dubai-based company manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-discretionary tasks for its client governments.
The company has operations in 139 countries and have processed over 171 million applications since they commenced operations in 2001.
Chasawath said the current visa application fee for both individual travelers and group tour travelers is NT$1,200. In the future, those who make applications via the Taipei and Kaohsiung visa application centers will have to pay an extra NT$470.
With the launch of the outsourcing service in October, the representative said his office will still offer visa application services for individual travelers from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Chasawath said the representative office is also in talks with VFS Global so that it can offer visa applications by mail or online, by the end of this year.
Taiwan announced in July that it will extend a trial 14-day visa-free entry program for nationals from Brunei, the Philippines and Thailand for another year, starting Aug. 1.
Taiwan first enacted the measure in August 2016 and the visa-free policy has "achieved its desired effect," according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, without elaborating.
According to statistics from the Tourism Bureau, nationals from the government's New Southbound Policy partner countries made a total of 2,284,382 visits to Taiwan in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 27.65 percent over 2016.
Taiwanese people made a total of 553,804 visits to Thailand in 2017. Meanwhile, Thai nationals made 292,534 visits to Taiwan in the same year, bureau numbers show.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel