Free permit system makes it easier for Taiwan residents to visit Hong Kong

Free online registration system will make it easier for Taiwan residents who don't have mainland travel permits to visit Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2012, 3:24am

Taiwan residents without mainland travel permits will be able to register online to visit Hong Kong at no cost from next month, the Immigration Department announced yesterday.

The new permits, which the department says will boost economic and culture exchanges, will be valid for two months, allowing visitors two entries to the city with a stay up to 30 days.

"The online registration system is an additional facilitation measure on top of the existing entry arrangements," said Raymond Yeung Chi-yan, who oversees visa control policies for the department. "We believe it will further enhance convenience for Taiwan visitors and contribute to Hong Kong-Taiwan exchange."

About 2.19 million Taiwan residents visited the city last year, down from 2.23 million in 2010, according to the immigration department.

A fifth of them did not have mainland travel permits.

Plans for such a policy were first outlined last year after the second meeting between the city's Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Co-operation and Promotion Council (ECCPC) and its Taiwanese counterpart.

At present, those without mainland travel permits need to apply for Hong Kong visas through either travel agencies or the Immigration Department. The three existing visas cost between HK$50 and HK$650.

To register for the new permit, applicants have to log onto the GovHK website and fill out the online form, a process that Yeung said should take roughly 10 minutes to complete.

Results of the application should be displayed instantly. Then, applicants must print out the notification slip on an A4-size sheet of paper and present it to immigration authorities upon arrival.

Some restrictions apply. Applicants must be either native-born Taiwan residents of Chinese descent or have entered Hong Kong in the past as Taiwanese residents.

They must also not possess travel documents issued by authorities other than Taiwan.

The new policy was welcomed by airlines, which stand to profit from any increase in travel between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"There is already a strong market between the two places," said Rupert Hogg, Cathay Pacific's director of sales and marketing. "And now it will be even easier for Taiwanese visitors to come and spend time with friends and relatives in Hong Kong."