Fri, Feb 01, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Couples seek help after Cambodia marriage ban

VISA WOES:Responding to concerned parties’ calls for Taiwanese authorities to be flexible in granting visas, agencies said they would try to help couples if possible

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party legislators Hsiao Bi-khim and Tien Chiu-chin, second and third left, accompany a Taiwanese-Cambodian family during a press conference yesterday. Current legislation makes it difficult for Cambodian spouses of Taiwanese to apply for residency or marriage certificates in Taiwan.

Photo: CNA

As the Cambodian government officially bans its citizens from marrying Taiwanese citizens, immigrant rights advocates yesterday called on the Taiwanese government to give special consideration when processing applications for residency or marriage certificates for Taiwanese-Cambodian couples, as, according to the law, a marriage certificate from an immigrant spouse’s country of origin is required for such applications.

“We certainly do not agree with the Cambodian government’s ban on Taiwanese-Cambodian marriages. However, problems created by the incorrect policy of a foreign government should not have to be shouldered by the people affected, especially when such transnational marriages also affect Taiwanese citizens,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) told a press conference at the Legislative Yuan yesterday morning.

“If we claim ours to be a country that cherishes human rights, then we should handle the issue with an attitude that’s different from the Cambodian government’s,” Hsiao added.

Citing the prevention of international people trafficking as its reason, the Cambodian government has banned marriages between its nationals and nationals of several countries, including Taiwan.

Due to the ban, many Taiwanese nationals who marry Cambodians are unable to apply for Taiwanese residency visas for their spouses, as applications for such visas require a marriage certificate issued by the Cambodian government.

Without a residency visa, Cambodian spouses may not be able to travel to Taiwan and register their marriage with Taiwanese authorities.

“It doesn’t make any sense that, knowing it’s impossible for Taiwanese-Cambodian couples to get a marriage certificate from the Cambodian government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs still insists on requiring the document for visa applications,” TransAsia Sisters Association Taiwan representative Wu Jia-zhen (吳佳臻) said.

“Some Cambodian mothers have given birth to children of Taiwanese nationality, and it is ironic that the mother of a Taiwanese child does not have legal residency in Taiwan, and is not allowed to work or enjoy coverage under the national health insurance system,” DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said.

“I understand that the National Immigration Agency may have measures to prevent human trafficking through fake marriages, but why can’t we deal with it differently when couples are obviously de facto married?” Tien added.

Several Taiwanese-Cambodian couples also attended the press conference, bringing their children with them, and urged lawmakers, immigrant rights groups, and representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior and the National Immigration Agency to help.

Responding to their pleas, government officials at the news conference said that they could help couples who are both in Taiwan, but may need to find another way to solve problems for couples where the Cambodian spouse is in Cambodia.

“If the National Immigration Agency could help us confirm that the couple is truly married, they would have no problem registering their marriages at local household registration offices,” said Liao Chiung-chih (廖炯志), a section chief from the Ministry of the Interior’s Department of Household Registration.

“When they become legally married, the foreign spouse would be granted an Alien Resident Certificate, and with it the foreign spouse could stay in the country as long as the certificate is valid, and, when all conditions have been fulfilled, they may apply for naturalization,” Liao said.

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