Legislature changes residency rules

FEWER HASSLES: Revisions to the immigration law will relax rules for foreigners seeking permanent residency and will benefit important contributors to the country

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, May 15, 2002 - Page 1

The legislature yesterday passed revisions to the immigration law that significantly ease the requirements for foreigners and alien family members of Taiwan nationals to seek permanent residency here.

To help attract talent from abroad, the body also approved proposals to grant permanent residency to foreigners who make important contributions to the nation.

The overhauls will relieve some 2,800 long-term expatriates of the trouble of having to renew their visas to stay in the country.

Under the amendments, foreigners who have resided in Taiwan for at least 183 days each year for seven consecutive years will be eligible to apply for permanent residency. Existing rules require applicants to live in the country for at least 270 days a year during the same time span.

"The relaxation is aimed at making the nation's immigration law more reasonable and humanitarian," said KMT legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖), who had actively pushed for the revisions.

The amendments also cut the length of time foreign spouses and children of Taiwan nationals must live in Taiwan to apply for permanent residency -- from eight in any 15-year period to five in any 10-year period. The present requirement of 183-day-a-year residence during those years remains unchanged.

This and other qualifications will not apply to foreign residents who have made important contributions to Taiwan, according to the revised legislation.

The exemption is partly designed to benefit foreign missionaries and residents who have lived in the country for decades but are ineligible to seek permanent residency due to frequent trips overseas.

American Doris Brougham, 75, founder of the popular English radio program, Studio Classroom, arrived in the legislature in the afternoon to express her gratitude for the change.

Brougham came to Taiwan as a missionary in 1951 at the age of 25. In 1994, she set up the Doris Brougham Scholarship to encourage students to pursue academic excellence. Now she devotes her time and energy into enhancing the nation's English-language skills.

She has been honored by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) with the Order of the Brilliant Star with Special Grand Cordon and was made an honorary civil servant of the highest level.

Joyce McMillan, 87, also stands to benefit from the changes. McMillan, who established a medical facility for children with polio in central Taiwan in 1965, was recently fined NT$10,000 and ordered to temporarily leave the country because she overstayed her visa.

Her predicament elicited sympathy from Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) who had campaigned for the legal overhaul.

As the number of polio patients has greatly declined in recent years, McMillan has shifted her focus to looking after mentally-challenged children and senior citizens suffering from dementia. She has won numerous honors over the years, including the Order of the Brilliant Star with Violet Grand Cordon.

Norwegians Alfhild Gislefoss and her husband, Bjarne Gislefoss, who recently received an award for their dedication to Aboriginal affairs, have lived in Taiwan for over 40 years. The couple will soon be given permanent residency following the legal amendments under which authorities will set up a committee to screen applications.

Foreign experts in high technology are also qualified to apply.