The government is inclined to include foreign spouses in its plan to distribute consumer vouchers to stimulate consumption, a senior Executive Yuan official said yesterday.
The Cabinet's plan, currently limited to Taiwanese citizens, with each individual receiving NT$3,600 in vouchers, may be extended to foreign spouses who have been granted dependent status, the official, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Taipei Times.
“[The government] is moving toward incorporating new immigrants [in the plan] and the Ministry of the Interior is now working on details,” the official said.
A meeting was convened by Minister of the Interior Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) yesterday to map out the details, which are expected to be finalized tomorrow.
Vice Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said that approximately 160,000 foreign spouses would qualify for the vouchers, which would translate into an additional NT$500 million (US$14.97 million) to the originally earmarked NT$82.9 billion program.
To qualify as a recipient, the preliminary criterion for immigrants married to Taiwanese nationals is that they have obtained right of abode, regardless of whether it is a temporary or permanent residence permit, Chien said.
Regulations differ on how Chinese spouses and spouses from other countries can procure residence permits.
Before a Chinese spouse is allowed to apply for permanent residency, he or she needs to get a unification visa (依親簽証) and stay for two years in the country. The Chinese spouse can then apply for short-term residency as a relative and has to stay for another four years before he or she is allowed to apply for long-term residency, which grants another two years of residency.
As for foreign spouses from countries other than China, they may apply for permanent residence if they have legally and continuously resided in the country for five years or if they have resided in the country for more than 183 days per year over the last 10 years.
Chien said Chinese spouses may qualify for the vouchers — except those who hold unification visas and who have lived in Taiwan for less than two years.
He said foreign spouses may also qualify if they were residents as a relative in the country, regardless of whether they hold permanent alien resident certificates, alien resident certificates, or were nationals with no household registration in Taiwan.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Shyu Jong-shyoung (徐中雄), who has requested that the government include immigrant spouses in the voucher program, said foreign spouses should be considered as “quasi-nationals” before obtaining Taiwanese citizenship.
As to how the vouchers would be handed out, Chien said the government would follow the voting booth model and set up stations in schools, police precincts and other public venues in townships or villages to hand out the coupons “to ensure that the vouchers are dispatched safely and smoothly to recipients.”
The scheduled date for the public to pick up their consumer vouchers at the stations will be on Jan. 18, which falls on the Sunday prior to the Lunar New Year on Jan. 24. There were an estimated 14,000 voting stations when the last national election was held.
The government initially planned to have the public collect their vouchers from post offices, Chien said, but noted that distributing the vouchers via post offices could be inconvenient as there are only 1,000 post offices in the country, most of which are busy with their own business in the weeks before the Lunar New Year.