Thanks, but no thanks
According to recent articles in a number of newspapers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs found it necessary and useful to state that a way exists for descendants of foreign professionals to extend their stay in Taiwan beyond the age of 20. Indeed, there is such a way, but the conditions that come with it render the regulation largely useless. It does not serve the foreign talent that allegedly should benefit from it.
I came to Taiwan in 1998 as a software developer. Hence I am one of those foreign talents that the government works to attract to benefit the Taiwanese economy and add to its competitive edge. In 2006 I received an Alien Permanent Residency Certificate (APRC).
However, my family has not been granted the same rights. My wife and children, two of them born in Taiwan, continue to depend entirely on me even though they have grown to be adults by international standards.
Over time — and many identical cases exist involving foreign talent — problems arise from that while my APRC comes with an open work permit, no member of my family is allowed to work, not even part-time.
Two of my children have left Taiwan even though they love the nation and identify with it. An especially dramatic situation exists with my two sons who were born in Taiwan and still live here. Imagine the situation of a child, a Taiwanese, raised here, speaking fluent Mandarin — better than any other language — and who has no foundation in the home nation of his parents, which by the government is still considered his “country of origin.” As he grows up, completely integrated with schoolmates and Taiwanese friends, he is not allowed to take a part-time job like all his friends once he turns 16. He is not allowed to take part in national competitions. He cannot attend certain vocational schools, because part of the curriculum is field work for associated companies, for which he would need a work permit. This he will not receive without a three-year university degree in a technical field that is considered relevant by the Ministry of Labor Affairs.
Originally, children of foreign professionals had to leave the nation once they turned 20 — even when they were born and raised in Taiwan, Taiwanese by all standards except passport and skin color. After much argument, the government passed a regulation that allows these persons to extend their stay for up to six years. If they meet a lengthy list of requirements they may apply for a three-year extension of their dependent Alien Residency Certificate (ARC), possibly twice. However, this would still be a dependent ARC without the right to work. Hence, for six to eight years they will have the opportunity to continue to live off their parents’ income without the possibility to make a living of their own.
At age 20, people are considered adults even by Taiwanese standards. Hence all the government is offering is to transform a natural dependency based on youth into a contrived, legalistic “adult dependency” that is not interesting for mature individuals.
It is no surprise then, that there have only been few applications to take “advantage” of this less than gracious offer. One of those applicants is our daughter. She received the extension, but because hanging around at the expense of her parents or possibly taking up illegal employment was not her idea of an adult life, she has moved to another nation to take a full-time job. Our oldest son has moved to Germany for university studies, because he saw no perspective for himself here. Both he and our daughter say that the longer they stay abroad the more they feel Taiwanese. This also applies to many others in the same situation.
It should be noted that the problem lies not with the immigration department or immigration police. We have very good relationships with local immigration officers who went to great length to facilitate our efforts to deal with the relevant procedures. I am sure other foreign professionals have similar experiences. The main obstacle appears to be the Ministry of Labor, which resists handing out open work permits to the members of our families.
A simple solution would be to grant permanent residency to an entire family once the main applicant receives his or her APRC. This is common practice in most, if not all, developed nations, including my home nation, Germany. This would be an unproblematic step in a very contained situation. Whatever path the government ultimately takes to attract foreign talent, it should not offer less to the international community that it wants to be a part of.
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