Thu, Dec 01, 2016 - Page 13 News List

Falling through the cracks

While the children of foreign permanent residents are now able to extend their dependency visas, not being able to work remains a major issue

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

The Jensen family’s case put the issue regarding the status of children of foreign professionals in Taiwan back into the spotlight last month.

Photo courtesy of Ralph Jensen

Cyril Guedmadingar faces being torn from his family — and the only country he has ever really known. The Russian national wants to stay in Taiwan after high-school graduation and find a job, but the law will not allow him to do so.

Guedmadingar, 18, has lived in Taiwan for 11 years on a dependency visa through his mother, who has an Alien Permanent Residency Certificate (APRC). Since permanent residency is not extended to the immediate family, Guedmadingar can remain in Taiwan as a dependent until he is 26, but cannot work.

“We’re sort of panicking,” his mother Marina says. “He doesn’t want to leave. His entire life is here.”

Foreigners not married to Taiwanese could only become permanent residents in 2002, and the problems their children face have only surfaced in recent years as they come of age. Having grown up here, many view themselves as Taiwanese, but do not have citizenship — even if they were born here. They will still have to leave when they are 26, as they cannot become permanent residents because there is a salary requirement.

BARRED FROM WORKING

Now a senior at Yu Da High School of Commerce and Home Economics (育達商職), Guedmadingar’s troubles began when he found work at a restaurant to fulfill the school’s internship requirement.

“I worked there for one day, and they asked my school for my work permit,” he says.

He didn’t have one because of his status, and the restaurant told him he could not come back. Luckily, the school gave him the credits anyway so that he could graduate, but he is still unable to work.

Guedmadingar has considered giving up his Russian passport to apply for Taiwanese citizenship, but is not legally able do so until he turns 20, which is next December. But even then, there are strict requirements that are difficult to meet.

Other individuals, such as Andres Jensen, a German-Polish national born in Taiwan, are experiencing similar problems. Also 18, the clock is ticking for Jensen, whose two older siblings have already unwillingly left Taiwan. Jensen is upset that his family was forced to separate, but he’s even more worried about his future.

“I don’t speak German well, and I can’t survive if I go to [Germany],” he says. “It’s kind of sad to realize that Taiwan is my home, but my home doesn’t want me ... I just want to receive a normal salary and live a normal life.”

RESTRICTIVE MEASURES

Attorney Michael Fahey of Taipei-based Winkler Partners says the government didn’t take into consideration the children of permanent residents enacting the new rules.

“It never occurred to them that years later you have people who have children who are growing up,” Fahey says. “The system is not designed to take care of them.”

Although the National Immigration Agency doesn’t track the number of these dependents, Fahey estimates that there are no more than 500.

Fahey partners with Forward Taiwan to work with the government on policy that would help attract and retain foreign talent, and resolving the problems faced by dependents is part of the bigger picture.

Legislators such as Jason Hsu (許毓仁) have taken up the issue, and the National Development Council is drafting a special act for foreign professionals including the residence status of their children, which will be finalized this month at the earliest. It will still have to go through the public hearings before it’s submitted to the legislature.

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