NIA announces fingerprint plan

SECURITY CONCERN?:According to the proposal, blue-collar Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai and Philippine nationals would have to be fingerprinted when applying for a visa

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, Dec 30, 2011 - Page 2

The government will start fingerprinting foreigners next year as part of its efforts to strengthen border control, with workers from four Southeast Asian countries to be affected first.

At present, blue-collar migrant workers and Chinese spouses are required to process their fingerprint card at the National Immigration Agency (NIA) service center within the area of their residency within 15 days of entering Taiwan.

Starting in the first quarter of next year, nationals from Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and -Indonesia who apply for visas to stay in Taiwan for six months or more to work in blue-collar sectors or to marry a Taiwanese citizen will be fingerprinted when they apply for their visa in their home country, director--general of the Bureau of Consular Affairs Thomas Chen (陳經銓) told a news briefing.

Chen said the implementation date had yet to be decided

“[Those] countries do not have rigorous procedures for processing visas, which permits false applications or applications under false identities. National security is the main concern,” Chen said.

Some immigrant workers who are not allowed to work in Taiwan either because they have completed the maximum nine years or because they were deported have changed their names and applied for visas under different identities, Chen said.

Fake marriages are also a problem, Chen said, adding that between 15 percent and 30 percent of spouses from these countries were suspected of seeking a fake marriage and were denied visas.

Chen said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had communicated with its counterparts and labor brokers in those countries to inform them of the policy and had not received any complaints.

Separately, NIA Deputy Director-General Ho Jung-chun (何榮村) said by telephone yesterday that the government planned to collect fingerprints for anyone who does not have registered permanent residence in Taiwan at ports of entry, where their identity would also be verified using facial recognition systems.

Article 91 of the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法), amended in 2009, authorizes the use of biometric systems to collect information on individuals and to keep a record of the information when foreigners, nationals without registered permanent residence, or residents of China, Hong Kong and Macau apply for residence or permanent residency, Ho said.

“The policy will apply to anyone without registered permanent residence regardless of their nationality or duration of stay,” Ho said.

Commenting on the policy, the Taiwan International Workers’ Association (TIWA) and TransAsia Sisters Association, Taiwan (TASAT) both voiced opposition.

“It’s a policy of racial discrimination because the ministry assumes that people from those [four Southeast Asian] countries are more likely to come to Taiwan under false pretenses,” TIWA secretary-general Chen Hsiu-lian (陳秀蓮) said.

TASAT director Wu Jia-zhen (吳佳臻) said it was a way to repress the disadvantaged under the pretext of national security.

The government originally included foreign spouses in its policy, but made an about-face late last night, saying the policy will not apply to people married to Taiwanese.