Thu, Dec 18, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Nationality Act reforms pass first stage of review

By Lii Wen  /  Staff reporter

A revised version of the Nationality Act (國籍法) passed its preliminary reading at the legislature yesterday, bringing reforms one step closer to immigration regulations that have long been criticized for putting naturalization applicants at risk of becoming stateless.

If officially passed by the legislature’s plenary session next year, the new version of the act is to relax many regulations pertaining to foreign applicants who wish to obtain Republic of China (ROC) citizenship.

However, an amendment that proposed allowing naturalization applicants to retain their original citizenship — thus effectively gaining dual citizenship — failed to make it through the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee.

Despite proposals submitted by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Lin Shu-fen (林叔芬) and Hsiao Bi-Khim (蕭美琴) to delete Article 9, which requires foreigners to renounce their original citizenship before they can apply for ROC citizenship, the article was revised rather than deleted.

The clause has long been criticized as a violation of human rights, as applicants who fail to obtain ROC citizenship after renouncing their original citizenship become stateless, making them unable to either leave Taiwan or find legal employment.

Instead of requiring foreigners to renounce their citizenship first, the revised version of Article 9 would allow naturalization applicants to renounce their original nationality within one year of obtaining ROC citizenship.

Other revisions to the act address regulations that have been said to be too abstract or allow authorities to arbitrarily determine a person’s qualifications for naturalization.

Article 3, which requires naturalization applicants to demonstrate that they “behave decently” and have “no criminal record,” was revised to be more precise.

Amid claims that naturalization applicants have been turned down for over minor offenses such as car accidents, the revised version of the article would rule out cases in which the applicant was not indicted, received deferred prosecution, sentenced to probation or fined.

Disagreement over whether to delete the requirement for applicants to “behave decently” led to a heated debate between Household Registration Director Wanda Chang (張琬宜) and DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女).

Despite objections from Yu that the phrase was “far too abstract,” the committee decided to keep the article, albeit with a definition that listed six main categories of behavior considered to be “indecent,” including convicted cases of adultery and drug trafficking.

Yu also demanded that regulations allowing authorities to revoke an applicant’s citizenship within five years of naturalization be shortened to two years, a suggestion that was also blocked by the ministry.

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