The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) yesterday passed a proposed amendment to the Immigration Act (出入國及移民法) granting amnesty to descendents of former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) soldiers in Southeast Asia who entered the country on forged passports.
Following the KMT’s defeat in the Chinese Civil War, tens of thousands of its soldiers moved across the Chinese border with Myanmar and Thailand. They became trapped there when the KMT regime collapsed in China and fled to Taiwan.
When the governments of Myanmar and Thailand refused to grant them residency or citizenship, they became stateless.
For decades, the Overseas Compatriots Affairs Commission (OCAC) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) had programs to bring descendents of the soldiers to study at Taiwanese universities.
As most of them were stateless, they entered Taiwan on forged or purchased passports, but were granted citizenship after residing in Taiwan for a period of time. That path to citizenship closed, however, when the Immigration Act took effect in 1999.
The OCAC and the MOE continued their recruiting programs, however, without explaining to new participants that they would not be granted citizenship after coming to Taiwan.
As a result, hundreds of students who arrived after 1999 on forged passports have overstayed their visas, but are unable to return to Myanmar or Thailand legally because they have no citizenship.
After several meetings with some of those left in this situation, the MOI decided to seek an amnesty.
“Those stateless people or [Republic of China (ROC)] nationals without household registration records who have entered the country to study between May 21, 1999 and Dec. 26, 2007 from Thailand and Myanmar with approval of the government bodies involved and cannot be deported will be permitted to reside [in the country] by the National Immigration Agency [NIA],” the amendment says.
The nationals referred to in the text are a small group of the stateless students who have documentation proving that their grandparents had ROC citizenship.
All of those who qualify would be cleared of legal responsibilities for entering the country on forged or bought passports if the amendment is promulgated.
“While those who have [other] criminal offenses during the past five years may not be granted residency, those whose offenses are related to passport forgery or using other people’s identities for the purpose of entering the country will not be subject to sanctions,” the amendment says.
“We asked these people to register last month and issued them temporary residency permits that were valid for a year,” NIA official Tsao Ku-ling (曹顧齡) said.
The amendment will be sent to the Cabinet and the legislature. Once it is passed, official alien resident certificates will be issued to the students, he said.
Eventually they could apply for citizenship under the standard regulations applying to foreigners in Taiwan.