TAIPEI - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday called on nationals not to misuse an emergency passport renewal service at the Foreign Ministry's airport branch office unless it is absolutely necessary.
During a regular news conference, deputy MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee said there are emergency passport renewal and application services available at the ministry's Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA) office at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
Lee, however, urged travelers to use passports with at least six months validity left and not apply for the emergency service at the airport office unless it is genuinely necessary.
Lee explained that the main task of the office is answering emergency calls made by travelers overseas or their family members in Taiwan and offering emergency services to nationals in need
Another major task for the office is to approve landing visas for foreign nationals.
However, there are rising numbers of cases where people are making use of the airport emergency passport renewal service, he noted.
Nearly 200 travelers made used of the service during a 10-day period over the Lunar New Year holiday this February, a peak season for Taiwanese traveling overseas.
The number has steadily increased in comparison with previous years.
In 2013, the office received a total of only 19 similar emergency applications during the five-day Lunar New Year break.
Now, an average of 200 emergency applications are made at the office every month, he added.
With limited manpower, offering such a last-minute service has caused a huge burden for BOCA's airport office staff, he said.
With the upcoming summer vacation, Lee called on the public to check the validity of their passports and file for necessary renewals at BOCA headquarters in Taipei or BOCA's branch offices nationwide rather than at the airport.
The special service at the airport was not well known until local media exposed in August 2013 that Vice President Wu Den-yih's grandson had made use of the service.
Meanwhile, the ministry yesterday also called on nationals who want to travel to the US under a visa waiver programme to register basic information online at an "Electronic System for Travel Authorization" (ESTA) website for authorisation first.
The ministry also noted that only Taiwanese nationals who hold newly issued biometric e-passports with chips that store the holder's personal information will be able to enjoy the privilege.