Immigrant rights groups yesterday protested outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs against the ministry’s move to prevent immigrants married to Taiwanese obtaining residency by stamping their visas “not allowed to obtain residency.”
Holding signs accusing the ministry of breaking up families and trying to exercise too much control over immigrants, dozens of people representing several immigrant rights groups — including the TransAsia Sisters Association (TSA), the Taiwan International Family Association, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and the Awakening Foundation — protested against the policy of affixing the special stamp to the visas of some immigrant spouses.
“Many immigrant spouses have ‘not allowed to apply for residency’ marked on their visas by the ministry and are only given regular visas which allow them to stay in the country for only two to six months,” TSA North Taiwan Office director Wu Jia-zhen (吳佳臻) told reporters.
“This creates a lot of troubles for the immigrant spouses of Taiwanese and their families, because they constantly have to go to their home country to get a new visa and come back,” Wu said.
“Because of all these troubles, many transnational couples have ended up divorcing,” Wu added.
A Filipino nicknamed Little Su (小蘇) said he came to Taiwan as a foreign worker in 2001 and ran away from his employer because he was abused, making him an illegal immigrant.
Later, he met a Taiwanese woman, whom he had two children by and who he married in the Philippines last year.
Although he was originally barred from re-entering country because of his previous violation of the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法), he was allowed into the country by the National Immigration Agency because he was married to a Taiwanese and was therefore an immigrant spouse.
“However, the ministry stamped ‘not allowed to obtain residency’ on my visa, so now I have to leave the country every six months to renew my visa,” Little Su said. “On top of that, I’m not allowed to work because I don’t have legal residency, making it economically very difficult for my family.”
Little Su’s family is not an isolated case and many similar couples end up divorcing, or the immigrant spouses have to overstay their visas and became illegal immigrants despite being married to Taiwanese, Wu said.
“It may be true that some of them have violated the Immigration Act before, but most of them have already been penalized,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense that they have to suffer yet another punishment.”
A representative from the ministry surnamed Chou (周) took the petition from the groups and said the ministry was also concerned about immigrant rights and would look into their demands to see what could be done.