‘Falling through the cracks’ is the title of a recent article in The Taipei Times about that age-old, yet still unresolved situation involving the families of foreign professionals in Taiwan. For those who don’t know it yet: if you come to Taiwan as a white collar worker, usually with a work permit for a job in the technical sector or as a teacher, then you can apply for permanent residence after five years of continuous employment. You then have much more flexibility to chose your employer and don’t need to apply for a residency card ever again. However, your spouse and children remain on temporary residency permits, which depend on yours and nobody in your family is allowed to work, not even part time, forever. In conjunction with some other related quirks this leads over time to all kind of situations that are far less than ideal.
In the past, articles about the issue focused almost entirely on my family, creating the impression that this was a unique case. That’s far from the truth. This article finally looks into the situation of a number of families with a focus – very important – on the ‘children’ of foreign professionals who by now have become adults. Some of them came to Taiwan as children and grew up here. Others are born in Taiwan. All of them, however, essentially remain ‘tourists on steroids,’ half-integrated into the society – for example they can attend school – but falling through the cracks in many other areas.
The government is fully aware of the situation but all the regulations that have been passed until now didn’t help at all. The main problem is that the family members are still not to allowed to work at all, no part-time jobs, no internships, nothing – even after 20 years of being here. Following a letter I wrote to The Taipei Times some time ago quite a number of articles have appeared also in Chinese language newspapers. As a result the government is talking about it again but if the past is any indication – and it usually is – there is no guarantee that a real solution will emerge anytime soon. A proposal is being discussed by the government but the changes that could actually help are still restricted to PLUM card holders – those with a Nobel Prize or something similar. So those ordinary, hard-working individuals with a family who can’t show documented proof of truly remarkable, outstanding, out-of-this-world, heroic accomplishments that benefit Taiwan better keep their hopes where they are now, meaning: not too high.
In closing: If you still haven’t heard enough about my family click here to read “Thanks but no thanks” – my letter that triggered the recent flurry of articles. And click here if you want to watch an eight minute video where I explain our family’s situation. I was invited to a press conference in congress but couldn’t make it so I shot the video. For what it’s worth: it actually had quite a positive impact – so I have been told by people who attended. On that same press conference they also showed a video which I shot two years ago explaining the situation in the words of two of the adult children. Click here to watch that one.
And thanks to all those here in Taiwan who were willing to talk to journalists. That really mattered.