The government is working to shorten the naturalization process for those with meritorious service from two months to about 10 days, Ministry of the Interior officials said.
The issue was raised after Father Gerald George “Jerry” Martinson, an US Jesuit missionary who lived and worked in Taiwan for 50 years, died in Taipei on May 31, a day before he was to receive his national identification card.
The situation led people to ask why it took so long for a foreign national who had contributed so much to the nation to obtain citizenship.
Under the Nationality Act (國籍法), foreign nationals or stateless people who have made special contributions to the nation can apply for naturalization.
However, complicated bureaucratic procedures mean the process takes more than a month and usually about two months to complete.
Under the ministry’s plan, developed in coordination with other agencies, foreign nationals who have made special contributions would be able to submit a naturalization application when they file for residency.
The application would then be sent to their local government and the ministry.
The Executive Yuan, which has authority over the matter, said it would leave it up to the ministry to make the decision, ministry official Chai Lan-ping (翟蘭萍) was cited in a local media report as saying.
However, the ministry’s plan still has to be reviewed by the Executive Yuan before it can be implemented, Chai said.
Martinson, who was born in California in 1942, came to Taiwan in 1967 and taught introductory philosophy and psychology college courses, as well as English on television.
He also managed the Kuangchi Program Service for years and in 1986 produced the award-winning documentary Beyond the Killing Fields: Refugees on the Thai-Cambodian Border.
He had also cooperated with television channels in China to make programs on Jesuit missionaries Matteo Ricci, Johann Adam Schall von Bell and Giuseppe Castiglione.
Belgian Father Pierre Mertens, who came to Taiwan in 1952; US Sister Mary Paul Watts, who came in 1958; and Italian Sister Elena-Pia Frongia, who came in the early 1960s, received ID cards this month.
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