Thu, May 25, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Foreign spouses offered new path to naturalization

WELCOMING GESTURE The Ministry of the Interior has decided to halve the hours of instruction required for foreign spouses to become naturalized citizens

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) announced yesterday that foreign spouses would no longer be required to take naturalization exams to obtain citizenship, provided they complete 100 hours of language, citizen rights and responsibilities classes recognized by the ministry.

The MOI launched a counseling, language-learning and childcare draft plan for foreign spouses last month, and has discussed it with the Ministry of Education.

Chen Tzu-he (陳子和), a section chief of the department of population under the MOI, said that the lifestyle and language courses will be provided by local governments. From next month, all foreign spouses who have been in the country for three years or more are expected to participate in the classes, Chen said.

Citizen rights and responsibilities classes include instruction about Taiwanese laws, traditions and culture, as well as the rights of foreign spouses, and child and health care. Language classes teach reading, speaking and listening skills in Mandarin.

Foreign spouses who complete 100 hours of instruction will not need to take the naturalization exam because they will have learned the information it covers in class, Chen said.

The naturalization exam, launched in January, requires applicants to have a basic language ability and civic knowledge of Taiwan.

The MOI originally suggested last September that foreign spouses who had studied in private or public schools in Taiwan for more than a year or who had taken more than 200 hours of government-recognized classes would not need to take the naturalization exam.

Officials have now halved the number of hours of instruction required.

Local governments are to visit families with foreign spouses and compile a list of names of those who are required to take the classes.

Chen said that the ministry hoped that all foreign spouses who had been in the country for three years or more would enroll in the classes.

To make it easier for foreign spouses to attend the classes, local governments would offer after-school childcare services for elementary school children and travel reimbursements of NT$500 (US$15.60), he said.

Chen said it was hoped that the classes would help foreign spouses to adapt to their new home, and earn respect and acceptance from the public.

Local governments will recruit substitute teachers or teachers who are currently unemployed to teach the classes, Chen said.

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