Visa Waiver Program for Taiwan, is Hong Kong next?

As many of our readers are aware, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced that beginning November 1, 2012, citizens from Taiwan, R.O.C. will be able to participate in the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”).  This would allow a Taiwanese citizen to enter the United States without a visa, and stay for up to a 90 day time period.  This is welcome news as there would no longer be a need to apply for a visa at the American Institute Taiwan (“AIT”) for short business or tourism trips, saving potential Taiwan visitors both time and money.

Shortly after this announcement, our office began to receive inquiries from readers in Hong Kong asking whether there were any plans to extend the VWP to residents of Hong Kong since Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (“S.A.R.”).  While it is true that the Hong Kong government has been asking to participate in the VWP for many years now, we believe that such participation by Hong Kong is highly unlikely even when considering the recent announcement regarding Taiwan.

The main reason why Hong Kong will be left out of the VWP is that Taiwan is its own separate region and is not beholden to decisions made by the central government of China.  Hong Kong on the other hand, while it is under a separate system as an S.A.R., does ultimately follow the mandate of the central government in China.  This means that the People’s Republic of China has the ultimate authority to determine who is or who is not a Hong Kong resident.  With this authority comes the ability to circumvent the need to obtain a visa for any class of citizen that China wishes to designate as a “Hong Kong Resident” should the VWP be enacted for Hong Kong Residents.   It is hard imagine that the United States government would allow China a free hand to make such determinations at this time, and because of this, it is highly unlikely that Hong Kong will be allowed to participate in the VWP.

We believe that the United States should make it as easy as possible for visitors to come visit this country. Although it is unlikely that Hong Kong will be allowed to participate in the VWP in the foreseeable future, we have confidence that the U.S. government will make it as easy as possible for visitors from Hong Kong and China to obtain visas to the United States to increase trade, boost the economy, and foster better relations between nations.

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