The government is reportedly considering adding a new “long-term resident” category for migrants from Hong Kong and Macau to lengthen the time needed to obtain permanent residency in response to concerns that Beijing could use the loophole to infiltrate Taiwan.
Beijing has in the past few years made a litany of changes to Hong Kong law designed to tighten its control over the territory, most recently the “patriot plan” passed last month, which is intended to prevent its critics from holding office.
This weakening of the “one country, two systems” formula in the territory has led some to fear that the ease with which Hong Kongers can move to Taiwan could increasingly be used to further Beijing’s “united front” aims.
The government is therefore considering tightening the Regulations Governing Residency or Permanent Residency for People of the Hong Kong Area and the Macau Area (香港澳門居民進入臺灣地區及居留定居許可辦法) to close the loophole, an official with knowledge of the matter said on Sunday.
Under the law, there are currently only two migrant statuses: resident and permanent resident, the official said.
The considered changes would add a third, “long-term residency” category that would be granted in the interim, requiring migrants from the territories to live in Taiwan for at least two years in total before applying for permanent residency, they said.
Most Hong Kongers who migrate to Taiwan arrive on a family visa, which can be changed to permanent residency after a “period of stay,” while those without relatives usually apply through investment, the official said.
To obtain the investment visa, applicants must invest at least NT$6 million (US$214,600) in Taiwan — one of the lowest such requirements in the world — then they can apply for permanent residency after one year, they said.
The changes would not only lengthen the period of stay, but also make sure that the investment is real, as many who enter on this visa type rescind their funds after obtaining residency, they added.
The law is too lax, the official said, adding that the rapidly changing situation in Hong Kong necessitates adjustments.
With a waiting period of two to five years for permanent residency, the government would have time to keep tabs on the newcomers and uncover any national security concerns, they added.
Some people are also concerned about older people taking advantage of the loose regulations to use the National Health Insurance system in Taiwan.
Good immigration policy should encourage young Hong Kongers to come to Taiwan for study and work, not older people looking to take advantage of the nation’s healthcare system, a security official said.
Taiwanese society is already aging and cannot sustain an onslaught of unproductive immigrants, otherwise the burden on the health insurance system would become untenable, they said, adding that changes intended to weed out suspicious applicants are expected to be passed within the year.
National Immigration Agency statistics showed that 10,813 Hong Kongers were granted residency last year, while 1,576 were granted permanent residency — both record highs.
In the first three months of this year, 2,441 were granted residency and 57 became permanent residents, a significant increase from the same period last year.
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