Saying that the policy of denying Tibetan spouses of Taiwanese citizens the right to apply for resident visas is discriminatory and illegal, the Control Yuan is demanding that government agencies address a problem that has sparked human rights concerns.
Control Yuan member Louis Chao (趙榮耀) and Shen Mei-chen (沈美真) recently published an investigative report about the nation’s visa policies for Tibetan spouses, in response to a request filed by the Catholic Scalabrini International Migration Network-Taiwan.
Married couples and activists have long appealed to various government departments and lawmakers to revise the policy that denies Tibetan spouses residency status, but the problem has yet to be truly resolved and very limited progress has been made.
According to the report, the Executive Yuan said to the Control Yuan on July 19 that it had set up guidelines for reviewing applications filed by Tibetan spouses who hold Identity Certificates for Travel (IC) issued to them by the Indian government to allow them to apply for residency under certain conditions. The Executive Yuan said the rules had been in effect since July 9.
However, the Control Yuan discovered that the guidelines were not being followed by government agencies.
In their investigation, Chao and Shen found the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “still sticks to the [old] rules” requiring Tibetan spouses to leave the country every six months to return to India to apply for a dependent visa at the Taipei Economic and Culture Office in India.
According to the new guidelines, holders of the Indian ICs who are married to Taiwanese citizens can apply for a visa which allows them to stay in Taiwan for 60 consecutive days and does not prohibit extension of the visa or the establishment of residency status as long as certain conditions are met.
The conditions that holders of Indian ICs must meet to qualify for this type of visa are: being in a registered marriage of at least three years and having been in the country for more than 183 days in each of the three most recent years. Those who have biological children in Taiwan only need to meet a two-year condition.
Compared with the previous policy that granted Tibetan spouses a visitor’s visa — which is valid for two months, can be extended for a maximum of sixmonths and disallows residency applications — the government has relaxed its visa policy a bit, but this is not sufficient to respect the human rights of rights, the Control Yuan members said.
The Control Yuan members said the visa policy was unconstitutional, stood in violation of the International Human Rights Covenants and has no legal basis even in domestic laws.
It generally takes two months for Tibetan spouses to return to apply for re-entry every six months and each time the trip costs them about NT$60,000 (US$2,046), they said.
Being denied residency status in Taiwan means that Tibetan spouses are forced to break up their family every six months and are denied the right to get a job to support their family as well as the right to be covered by the National Health Insurance System, the Control Yuan members said.