U.S. PROPOSES ELVIS SOLO FOR TAIWAN; IMPORTERS SKEPTICAL
Byline: Jennifer Owens
WASHINGTON — Could Elvis — the U.S. Customs’ Electronic Visa Information System — finally be ready to take its solo act on the road? The government seems to think so, but importers have their doubts.
In a filing this month in the Federal Register, the Committee for the Implementation for Textile Agreements announced its intention to remove a dual paper and electronic visa stamp system now in use in Taiwan. If successful, the move would allow importers in Taiwan to join those in Singapore already using U.S. Customs’ speedier and cheaper Elvis exclusively.
The public has 60 days to respond to the Taiwan plan, but Laura Jones, executive director of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, said she wasn’t planning to wait that long and was ready to send in her comments detailing importers’ problem with the plan.
The Taiwan proposal is the fourth such filing concerning an Elvis solo act. In addition to Singapore and Taiwan, they have covered the Philippines and Malaysia, which nevertheless still continue with the dual system.
And as in those countries, USAITA’s concern with Taiwan is the same: Importers say Elvis can work alone at this time only in Singapore.
Unlike the other countries using Elvis, Singapore provides documentation reconfirming that their exporters have sent visas with their shipments. U.S. importers need that documentation to execute their letters of credit.
“We want to see [Elvis] done, too,” Jones said. But without such documentation from foreign governments, CITA’s request for public comment on using Elvis solo “doesn’t mean a thing.”
Currently, Elvis is in use in seven Asian countries: South Korea, China, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan and Singapore. Bob Ables, an international trade specialist with Customs, said the agency soon expects to add Hong Kong to the list, while possibly looking next to the Caribbean.
But while both Commerce and Customs have pointed to security as the reason for dual visas, both had said originally the parallel programs would last only six months as a way to work out any unforeseen bugs in the system.
A year later, importers are still waiting. And now, Ables said that some countries may never agree to leave the dual system — a move which must be approved both by CITA and the foreign government.
“Some countries may not feel comfortable going stampless,” he said, “so they won’t.”
Meanwhile, Jones said her organization will continue to request visa reconfirmation from foreign countries now involved with Elvis. For now, however, “they’re just not listening.”