LOS ANGELES, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Taiwanese travelers will no longer have to obtain a $164 visa to visit the United States, the U.S. government has decided.
Beginning Thursday Taiwan joins 37 countries in a visa waiver program the United States reserves for nationalities it deems pose little security threat and are not major sources of illegal immigration, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The decision to end the cumbersome visa requirement is expected to boost tourism.
"I'm really very happy for Taiwanese citizens," said Chung-Chen Kung, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles. "This is really a step forward."
The Taiwanese government projects the number of visitors from the island may increase from 400,000 to as many as 600,000 a year.
A spokesman for China, which normally opposes any granting of diplomatic benefits to Taiwan, said the change will not have much of an effect on cross-strait relations.