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Wed, Jan 19, 2000 - Page 2 News List

New nationality rules welcomed

STATELESS CHILDRENA new revision to legislation covering the right of abode now allows the offspring of Taiwanese mothers and non-Taiwanese fathers to legally reside in this country, even if the parents have already divorced

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

The problems faced by stateless children from broken marriages have been addressed following recent revisions to the Nationality Law, which now allows children born of Taiwanese mothers and non-Taiwanese fathers to obtain citizenship here.

The revisions to the law were passed last week in the closing days of the legislative session.

Before the revisions, the government recognized only a father's nationality as the basis of his children's nationality.

Due to the restrictions, children of such international marriages would become stateless if they had not obtained another nationality by the time their parent's marriage was dissolved.

Such offspring can now acquire an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) for stateless children, based on the relationship with their mothers, but they are required to have a valid reason to keep the ARC after the age of 20.

However, these children will not be entitled to government-sponsored schooling, as are Taiwanese nationals.

Despite this setback, one mother remained optimistic.

"The revisions have resolved all my child's problems," said a Taiwanese woman who married a French national 10 years ago.

She said her child, who was born in Taiwan and is now seven years old, had not obtained French nationality by the time her husband abandoned her four years ago.

She and her husband had filed an application with the French Institute in Taipei to try to obtain French citizenship before that, she said.

However, she was told after her husband had left that the application could not be processed without the father's citizenship certificate, which he had not submitted.

"We talked over the telephone about the problem, but he did not seem to care. Even worse, we lost contact some time later and that made the application impossible," she said.

Sandy Taylor (閔瓊芳), country director of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Taiwan (國際賽珍珠基金會), which has tried to help stateless children for years, said her foundation is aware of at least 40 children facing similar situations.

Taylor said that in most cases, the children became stateless because the father had abandoned them, and there is no way for them to get the documents needed to obtain a foreign nationality based on their relationship with their father.

"The revisions are a big step in Taiwan's population policy and an improvement of sex equality," Taylor said.

Ever since it was promulgated in 1929, the Nationality Law automatically gave Taiwan nationality to children of Taiwanese fathers and non-Taiwanese mothers, but never the other way around.

Efforts to make changes to the law have been made since 1993, as its deficiency was highlighted with the increase of international marriages.

Liu Ming-chien (劉明堅), director of the Ministry of the Interior's population department, said the revised law will be implemented in three months, after the regulatory framework is adjusted in accordance with the revisions.

The revised law will be applicable to children who have not reached adulthood at the time of its revision.

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