Falling through the cracks

‘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.


ECC Taipei about Taiwan Immigration

In addition to the issues mentioned in today’s other post, the most recent ‘Better Living’ position paper of the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei sheds light on some other bleak aspects of Taiwan’s legal environment of expatriates:

1. An annoying situation involving identity numbers (national Taiwan ID versus ARC/APRC ID) is still unresolved:

“The fact that ROC national ID cards and Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) cards have different number formats continues to exclude ARC/APRC holders from many services available to national ID holders.”

Entering your ARC number into online forms often leads to an entry error message (‘invalid number.’) This annoying feature excludes you from a wide range of services offered to Taiwanese, including the possibility go sell things online even though you have the legal right to do so. It doesn’t help having an employee of a company you want to deal with enter your info as he or she will fail just like you. The fact that you are legally entitled to use the service makes no difference. Popular workaround: use a Taiwan friend’s ID number or a fake one. Nobody will notice because nobody cares.

I heard from an informed source that the government has three excuses for not doing away with the different formats:

  • Some countries that give Taiwanese citizens visa-exempt entry voice objections   (???)
  •  Unified ARC/ID numbers would cause confusion about who is a citizen and who is a resident (??? Isn’t the term ‘ARC’ on the ID card sufficient to prevent such confusion???)
  • Unified ARC/ID numbers would negatively impact the rights and interests of Taiwanese citizens who have household registration in Taiwan. (Er…???)


2. Newborns still not covered by national health insurance (NHI)

Recently the news media reported about a few cases where complications arose during or after birth in Taiwan hospitals and the foreign parents only then found out that newborns have to wait for six months before they are covered by the national health insurance policy of their parents.

An explanation used frequently here: this applies to all ‘new arrivals.’ Not to those born to Taiwanese parents though. The reason for this appears obvious: Taiwan government trying to avoid expenses arising during that risky time period of birth. Let’s face it – getting born is risky. Try to avoid doing it in Taiwan and if you can’t then purchase separate insurance.

Just out of interest: What’s the new arrival’s country of origin?


3. Foreign professionals still second class citizens for travel insurers

“This is a new issue. … Currently, travel insurance policies are readily available, but the levels of coverage offered to foreign residents are significantly lower than those available to Taiwanese nationals. There is no justification for different levels of coverage, based on nationality.” Right, but there is an explanation: money matters more than anything else and let’s face it – who are you going to complain to?


4. Senior citizen discount on high speed rail tickets: Not For Foreigners

Another signal of ‘foreigners not welcome here.’ The argument probably is that you just moved here after retirement, haven’t paid taxes in Taiwan and just want to get something for nothing. It makes no difference, though, if you have worked all your life here in Taiwan. It’s an entirely unnecessary nuisance as the financial loss for the railways is negligible – other than the damage to goodwill. But let’s face it: money matters more than anything.


5. APRC not really permanent

I am personally not sure what the regulations are in other countries. It Taiwan it is currently like this: You have to reside inside the country for 183 days or more during a calendar year (January 1 to December 31.) When you travel internationally then your day of departure counts toward those days but your day of return does not.

You can stay away for up to two years if you have an important enough reason but you have to notify the National Immigration Agency (NIA) prior to your departure.

If your job requires you to travel a lot you’re just out of luck if you don’t accumulate 183 days in a year. Back to square one in terms of ARC and even APRC

Click here to find the entire ECCT paper (in English and Chinese.)