The following article, a letter to the editor of The Taipei Times about the situation of children of foreign professionals in Taiwan (and the uselessness of recent regulation changes), appeared on October 17, 2016 in the Editorials section of the paper:
According to recent articles in a number of newspapers the Taiwan government found it necessary and useful to state that a way exists for descendants of foreign professionals to extend their stay in Taiwan beyond the age of 20. Indeed, there is such a way, but the conditions that come with it render the regulation largely useless. It does not serve the foreign talent that allegedly should benefit from it.
I came to Taiwan in 1998 as a software developer. Hence I am one of those foreign talents that the government works to attract to benefit the Taiwan economy and add to its competitive edge. In 2006 I received permanent residency rights (APRC).
However, my family has not been granted the same rights. My wife and children, two of them born in Taiwan, continue to depend entirely on me even though they have grown to be adults by international standards.
Over time – and many identical cases exist involving foreign talent – problems arise from the fact that while my APRC comes with a work permit that allows me to do any lawful work with no restrictions on salary or employer, no member of my family is permitted to work, not even part time.
Two of my children have left Taiwan even though they love the country and identify with it. An especially dramatic situation exists with my two sons who are born in Taiwan and still live here. Imagine the situation of a child, a Taiwan native, raised here, speaking fluently Mandarin – better than any other language – and who has no foundation in the home country of his parents, which by the government is still considered his ‘country of origin.’ As he grows up, completely integrated with schoolmates and Taiwan friends he is not allowed to take a part time job like all his friends once he turns sixteen. Our daughter was not allowed to take part in national competitions, because at the time a Taiwan ID was required here which only Taiwan citizens possess. Problems also arise when attending vocational schools. As the professions taught in such schools are not those that foreigners would receive work permits for, he is limited in terms of which programs he may enrol in. Also, opportunities for internships in the field of study in associated companies – a common practice – are not equally available as they are his Taiwanese classmates since participating companies are unlikely to choose foreign students who will not be able to obtain work permits in the future. School tuition fees are subsidised by the government but the children of foreigners, even though their parents pay the same taxes as Taiwanese, are not eligible here. This often results in costs triple of those of Taiwanese students.
Originally, children of foreign professionals had to leave the country once they turn twenty – even when they were born and raised in Taiwan, being Taiwanese by all standards except passport and skin color. After much argument the government has passed a regulation that allows these persons to extend their stay for up to six years. If they meet certain requirements they may apply for a three-year extension of their dependent ARC, possibly twice. However, this would still be a dependent ARC without the right to work. Hence, for six years they will have the opportunity to continue to live off their parents’ income without the possibility to make a living of their own. At age twenty people are considered adults even by Taiwan standards. Hence all the government is offering is to transform a natural dependency based on youth into a contrived, legalistic ‘adult dependency’ that is not interesting for mature individuals.
It is no surprise then, that there have only been few applications to take ‘advantage’ of this less than gracious offer. One of those applicants is our daughter. She received the extension but because hanging around at the expense of her parents or possibly taking up illegal employment was not her idea of an adult life. So she has moved to another country and took a full time job. Our oldest son has moved to Germany for a university study because he saw no perspective for himself here. Both he and our daughter say that the longer they stay abroad the more they feel Taiwanese. This also applies to many others in the same situation.
It should be noted that the problem lies not with the immigration department, which simply enforces immigration law. We have very good relationships with local immigration officers who went to great length to facilitate our efforts to deal with the relevant procedures. I’m sure other foreign professionals have similar experiences. The main obstacle appears to be the Ministry of Labor Affairs which resists changing the law to allow work permits for the members of our families.
A simple solution would be to grant permanent residency to an entire family once the main applicant receives his or her APRC. This is common practice in most, if not all, developed nations including my home country Germany. This would be an unproblematic step in a very contained situation. Whatever path the government ultimately takes to attract foreign talent it shouldn’t offer less to the international community that it wants to be a part of.