Information Paper for the PLC Panel on Security Meeting on 12.3.1998
Agenda Item I : Entry Visa for Taiwan Visitors and Visitors from Overseas

I. Introduction

Hong Kong is one of the most popular destinations for tourists and other visitors. In 1997, about 6.3 million overseas visitors came to Hong Kong. Our immigration policies aim to facilitate easy travel with minimal but necessary control.

II. Overseas Visitors

2. People from over 170 countries and territories can visit Hong Kong visa-free. Hong Kong operates a liberal visa regime and nationals of only 40 countries/economies need to apply for visas for visits.

3. In 1997, Immigration Department received over 56,000 applications for visit visas, and was able to issue visas to over 94% of applicants within four weeks.

4. We have also in place one of the most efficient immigration clearance arrangements in the Asia and Pacific Region. We manage to clear on average 92% of all visitors within 30 minutes waiting time at all control points. At Kai Tak Airport, all passengers are cleared for departure within this targeted time, despite being one of the busiest airports in the world in terms of passenger throughput.

5. To enhance the mobility of frequent visitors to Hong Kong, we have introduced a Travel Pass Pilot Scheme in January 1998. A total of 10,000 Travel Passes will be issued on a first-come first-serve basis. The Travel Pass is valid for three years and good for multiple entries to Hong Kong for a stay of two months on each trip. The holder of a Travel Pass will be allowed to use Hong Kong resident counters for arrival and departure. The Immigration clearance procedure will be simplified and the processing time will be reduced as a result.

6. Applications for Travel Pass are open to frequent visitors who hold valid passports and are eligible to come to Hong Kong without a visa or an entry permit. Applicants should have a genuine need to visit Hong Kong frequently and have come for visits trouble-free on five or more occasions (other than return from side trips to the Mainland or Macau) in the 12-month period immediately preceding the application, or can satisfy Director of Immigration that their visits may bring substantial benefits to Hong Kong.

7. We will also participate in the APEC Business Travel Card Trial Scheme, together with Australia, the Philippines, Republic of Korea and Chile. We will start receiving applications for APEC Cards in end of March 1998. Under the Trial Scheme, a maximum of 2,000 APEC Business Travel Cards valid for three years will be issued to Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card (HKPIC) holders. HKPIC holders will submit their applications to the Director of Immigration. The applications will be referred to the designated authorities of other participating economies for their assessment and pre-clearance. An APEC Business Travel Card will be issued after the pre-clearance is completed.

8. An APEC Business Travel Card is good for multiple visits of two months to participating economies without visas. Card holders will also enjoy streamlined immigration clearance for departure and arrival at the control points of participating economies. In Hong Kong, Card holders from participating economies will be allowed to use resident counters where available.

III. Taiwan Visitors

9. Taiwan residents are frequent visitors of Hong Kong. Over the past 3 years, the annual number of Taiwan visitors amounts to around 1.8 million, representing a daily average arrival figure of about 5,000. They were either the second or third largest tourist group visiting Hong Kong in the period.

10. To enter Hong Kong, most Taiwan residents use Taiwan Visit Permits (TVPs) issued by the Immigration Department. There are 3 types of TVPs, details of which are tabulated below:

5 working days 270
TypeValidity Period of StayProcessing TimeFee ($)
Single-journey3 months15 days -
3 months
15 working days135
(16 pages)
1 year 14 days on each
(32 pages)
3 years 14 days on
5 working days 540

11. New applications for TVPs have to be submitted to the Immigration Department via authorized offices of a total of 21 airlines in Taiwan. Renewal applications for TVPs may either be submitted to the Immigration Department by the applicants, their authorized persons, or through the authorized airline offices in Taiwan.

A. Improvement Measures Made

12. The Administration have made continuous efforts to facilitate Taiwan residents to travel to Hong Kong over the past few years. These efforts have brought about a number of improvements to the TVP system. They include -

  1. the period of stay granted to TVP holders was extended from seven days to 14 days;

  2. the requirement for local reference for all applications was normally waived;

  3. the number of types of TVPs was reduced from seven to three to simplify the application procedure;

  4. the processing and issue of TVPs were computerised. The processing time of applications was reduced from seven to five working days;

  5. computer-assisted optical character readers have been installed at immigration control points to scan machine-readable travel documents, including TVPs. Immigration clearance time for TVP holders was reduced by 20 seconds to 70 seconds; and

  6. validity of the jumbo-size multiple-journey TVPs was extended from two to three years.

13. As a result of the above efforts, Taiwanese residents can now visit Hong Kong on strength of their multiple-journey TVPs valid for one or three years and good for a stay of 14 days on each landing. They can also make use of the single-journey TVPs, which are valid for and good for a stay of up to three months, to visit Hong Kong.

14. To further improve the system, the Immigration Department have also recently issued multiple-journey TVPs with pre-printed landing conditions in January 1998. This has further enhanced travel convenience of Taiwan visitors.

B. Improvement Measures under Consideration

15. The Administration is actively considering the introduction of further improvement measures, subject to availability of resources.

Shortening of TVP Applications Processing Time

16. We will look into ways to shorten the current two weeks lead time required of the issue of multiple-journey TVPs. Under present arrangements, apart from the five working days required by the Immigration Department for processing applications for multiple-journey TVPs, an additional one week or more is needed for the collection and despatch of batches of applications by the authorised airline agents and for the despatch of approved TVPs back to Taiwan. We will work with the agents to reduce the time spent on collecting TVP applications. We will also impress upon them that they have to take extra care in handling these applications so as to minimise the time required for data correction.

17. We are also considering providing a fast track service of multiple-journey TVPs to bona fide visitors. This service will include the issue of a new type of multiple-journey TVPs valid for three years and good for a stay of 30 days; allowing a shorter immigration clearance time for such TVP holders by opening resident counters at immigration points to them; and shortening of the application processing time to two working days. There would probably be an additional service charge for this fast track service to recover cost. Consideration is also being given to expanding the number of Taiwan agencies allowed to handle TVP applications.

Extension of TVP Validity

18. Another way to provide more travel convenience to Taiwan visitors is to extend the validity of multiple-journey TVPs from the current one year or three years to three or five years. This would have the benefit of reducing the frequency of the need to renew the permits. To implement this measure, the Immigration Department would need to laminate the data page of the TVPs to ensure that the personal particulars can be durably kept. It is likely that it would take quite some time to implement the lamination process.

More Publicity on Three-year Multiple-journey TVPs

19. Another way to enhance travel convenience of Taiwan residents in entering Hong Kong is to promote greater use of the three-year multiple-journey TVPs. According to our record, only 20% of multiple-journey TVP applicants ask for three-year TVPs (the remaining 80% opts for one-year TVPs). We will liaise with the tourist industry to encourage more use of the three-year multiple-journey TVPs.

Electronic Visit Permit Application System

20. In the longer term, we hope to be able to use the latest telecommunication and information technology to issue visit permits including TVPs by electronic means. A team from the Immigration Department and the Information Technology Services Department will visit Australia shortly to study such a system.

IV. Way Forward

21. As part of our efforts to enhance travel convenience for bona fide visitors from all over the world, including those from Taiwan, to enter Hong Kong, we will continually review our policies and explore possible ways to simplify procedures and shorten the time required for processing entry visa applications and clearance at immigration control points.

Security Bureau

12 March 1998
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