Thu, Sep 14, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Advocates urge changes to protect foreign spouses

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Members of social groups, seated at the head of the table, yesterday hold a news conference at the Legislative Yuan to launch a joint alliance to press the government to protect immigrants’ rights by amending Article 19 of the Nationality Act.

Photo: Lu Yi-hsuan, Taipei Times

The Nationality Act (國籍法) should be revised to remove provisions that allow the citizenship of naturalized foreign spouses to be revoked, rights campaigners said yesterday, adding that a clearly defined citizenship revocation cut-off period was lacking.

Members of the Labor Rights Association, Legal Aid Foundation, TransAsia Sisterhood Taiwan and other groups gathered at the Legislative Yuan to announce the establishment of the “Article 19 Alliance,” named after regulations that say naturalization cannot be revoked after a five-year statute of limitations.

The exemption was passed last year among amendments to expedite the citizenship process, including giving foreign spouses up to a year after gaining Republic of China (ROC) citizenship to renounce other citizenships.

“The way changes were made has created a situation in which foreign spouses live in fear because they are never given a definitive residency guarantee,” Labor Rights Association executive director Wang Chuan-ping (王娟萍) said.

“If a marriage is found to have been faked, there is currently no statute of limitations to declare it null, but this should be detached from the citizenship issue,” said Frank Wu (吳富凱), a Legal Aid Foundation attorney, citing legal requirements that foreign citizens renounce past citizenships as part of the naturalization process.

“It is reasonable for there to be provisions allowing for the revocation of citizenship when new information comes to light, but there should be a clear time limit,” Wu said.

“The problem with the article is that these people give up their citizenships,” National Chengchi University associate professor of law Bruce Liao (廖元豪) said. “When they apply, the government found no problems with their application, but after a couple years, it can still revoke citizenship because of minor paperwork issues, effectively making the foreign spouses stateless.”

Ly Vuoch-heang (李佩香), a Cambodian immigrant and executive secretary of TransAsia Sisterhood Taiwan, said that spouses face major obstacles if they seek to recover citizenship in their home countries.

There is a backlog of more than 80 foreign spouses from Vietnam who have had their ROC citizenship revoked, with the Vietnamese government only restoring citizenship to two individuals each year, Ly said.

“There are lots of ways that you can punish falsification, including fines, but revoking citizenship is completely disproportionate,” she said, adding that Taiwanese spouses in falsified marriages are only subject to fines, creating incentives for disgruntled spouses to make false accusations rather than pursuing a formal divorce.

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