I felt rather strange reading about Richard Hartzell getting his six-year driver's license ("Foreigner wins driver's license battle," May 24, Page 2). The article says his case is "believed to be the first time such a license has ever been issued to an alien here.
" On July 11, 1996, I exchanged my international driver's license for a Taiwan license without even having to take a driving test. The expiration date on my Taiwan license is my birthday in the year 2003.
While I've heard horror stories about foreigners trying to obtain a driver's license in Taiwan, I doubt I'm the only one who has such a license. With the networks that both Hartzell and the Taipei Times have, I'm surprised that neither of you were aware of this.
Richard Hartzell isn't the first "alien" to get a six-year driver's license, since I got one in Taoyuan County in 1993 that just expired last year on my birthday. All my friends in Taoyuan got similar six-year licenses. My guess is each county/municipality has its own "interpretation" of the law.
Long Beach, CA
Until recently, when Hartzell brought the Taipei situation to the fore it was standard policy in Tainan City (and I suspect other places) to issue six-year licenses to foreigners.
I hope that Tainan will revert to its original policy, as my six years are almost up, and that Hartzell will continue his commendable lobbying work.
A local driver's license is one of the easiest things to obtain in Taiwan. Though married to a Taiwanese and working for a company, my ARC has to be renewed annually. Yet when I applied for a driver's license, all that was needed was a license from a country recognized by the local office or an international license.
So 20 minutes after I presented my original, a notarized translation, the results from a physical and two pictures, I had a local license good for six years. In fact, most of my friends were equally pleasantly surprised by the ease of the whole operation.
In all fairness most (Western) foreigners are treated a lot better than their Taiwanese counterparts abroad, so I take great offense at Hartzell's comment that "based on the principle of international mutual benefits, foreign residents in Taiwan should enjoy the same rights as the locals ... " If that was the case we should all be treated a lot worse than we are now.
Editor's note: As these and other readers have pointed out, Richard Hartzell was certainly not the first to receive the six year license, and we were obviously well off the mark to report that he was.
Prior to September 1998, it was standard policy to issue six-year licenses to qualified foreign residents. At that time, the regulations were changed, linking the duration of the license to the duration of the foreign applicant's Alien Resident Certificate. What Hartzell has done is to win an appeal against this new policy.
As a service to our readers, we will provide a complete report on the current regulations governing the license application process next week.
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