Tue, Apr 07, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Agency under fire over foreign spouse interviews

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Immigration officers must be professional and sensitive when asking questions when interviewing foreign spouses, lawmakers said yesterday, urging the National Immigration Agency (NIA) to provide better training to interviewers.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said his office had received numerous complaints about couples facing rude questions during immigration interviews.

“One of my constituents said he was asked if his bride was a virgin. Such information is absolutely none of the NIA's business,” he said at the legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee meeting.

Another KMT lawmaker, Justin Chou (周守訓), said he met a man who was asked to name the color of his wife's underwear. Other couples have complained of being asked about details of the first time they had sex.

NIA Director-General Hsieh Li-kung (謝立功) said all interview officers had been trained to distinguish between genuine marriages and those who try to take advantage of the system. He promised to look into the complaints.

Lawmakers also questioned the NIA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the high visa rejection rate for foreign spouses.

NIA and ministry statistics show that the rejection rate, especially for women coming from China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, was 25 percent in the last three years.

Hsieh said the figures reflected the agency's efforts to stop illegal immigrants from entering the country through fraudulent marriages.

To better protect the rights of female interviewees, the agency has assigned more female officers to conduct the interviews, it said. Moreover, to ensure fairness, some couples may be interviewed several times by different officers to avoid the possibility of bias, the agency said.

Ministry figures showed that at the end of February, the total number of foreign spouses in Taiwan — not including those from China, Hong Kong or Macau — stood at 140,041.

Lo Yu-chung (羅由中), director-general of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, said that from 2006 to last year, 25 percent of the visa applications by foreign spouses were turned down by Taiwanese embassies and representative offices abroad.

Last year alone, the Hanoi office rejected 35 percent of such applications, Lo said, adding that the visa refusal rate for Taiwanese offices in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines were 36.2 percent, 33.8 percent and 18.3 percent respectively.

Since the establishment of the NIA in January 2007, the agency has helped identy 302 people involved in human smuggling, Hsieh said.

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