Taiwan seeking public input on draft act to draw foreign talent

NDC is actively soliciting input from the public on a new bill to attract foreign professionals to live and stay in Taiwan

Silhouettes of business people (PublicDomainPictures.net)

Taipei (Taiwan News) -- The National Development Council (NDC) is actively soliciting input from the public on a new draft bill to encourage foreign professional talent to work and live in Taiwan.

The NDC has posted detailed information on the draft Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professional Talent on the Join Platform with the objective of getting direct feedback from both foreign nationals and Taiwanese citizens on fine tuning the details to better improve the environment for foreign professionals. 

On Oct. 19 of 2016, the Executive Yuan approved at program titled "Perfect Taiwan's Environment for Retaining Talent" which presented 27 reform strategies in seven major areas to address problems foreign professionals encounter when coming to and residing in Taiwan. The seven major areas include visa, work, residence, finance, tax, insurance, and international living environment.

Some salient examples of these 27 reform strategies include plans to open up the new pension system to APRC holders, provide resident rights for children of foreign nationals, loosen permit applications for spouses of foreign talent, address the relinquishment of nationality issue, facilitate the process for foreigners to apply for credit cards, avoid double taxation, and relax regulations on the driver's license test.

Taking into consideration the approaches of competitive countries such as Singapore, Japan, Korea, the U.S., and the UK, the program mapped out liberalizations relating to visas, residence, insurance, naturalization, retirement and other aspects of their treatment to encourage foreign talent to come and remain in Taiwan:

Relaxation of law relating to work permits for foreign professional talent

Relaxation of law relating to foreign professional talent's spouses and children

Easing of provisions for foreign students and graduates to come to Taiwan as interns

Relaxations concerning retirement, National Health Insurance, and tax

The definitions of foreign professional talent and Special Professional

According to the Ministry of Labor, Taiwan loses between 20,000 to 30,000 white-collar workers who move to other countries for better opportunities every year, with approximately 2 million Taiwanese managerial-level workers now based in mainland China and overseas. While the entire foreign white collar workforce in Taiwan is a paltry 30,000, compared to the 189,600 workers holding EP passes (professionals, managers, and executives) in Singapore, a country with one quarter the population of Taiwan.

Currently, 95 percent of Taiwan's foreign labor force is made up of blue collar workers and caregivers, at 600,000, based on Ministry of Labor data. Last year, 90.67 percent of naturalization applications were submitted by foreign spouses of Taiwanese, 76.31 percent (2,703) of whom were Vietnamese, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

Dual Citizenship Roadblock

A particularly vexing law that many in the expatriate community complain about is the requirement to renounce their citizenship before they can become a naturalized Taiwanese citizen, while Taiwanese citizens can obtain dual citizenship in many countries around the world, including the United States. In December, there have been minor changes made to the Nationality Act (國籍法) providing a one-year grace period to allow for foreign nationals to start the naturalization process before being required to show proof of the renunciation of their original nationality. The rule change also allowed foreigners who have been divorced or whose Taiwanese spouse has died to apply for naturalization during the same one-year grace period. 

Articles 6 and 9 of the Nationality Act were also modified to include a few special exceptions to allow foreigners to obtain citizenship without renouncing their original citizenship, most notably section three of Article 9 states:

The central competent authority shall recommend high-level professionals in science and technology, economics, education, culture, art and sports, and other areas, who help the interests of the Republic of China, and are invited by the Ministry of the Interior.

It is unclear which government authorities can make such a decision and what mechanisms are in place to facilitate this process. The first and only person to benefit from this rule change so far was a Catholic priest who was finally able to obtain a Taiwan ID, while not having to relinquish his U.S. passport, after having lived in Taiwan for 54 years. Last December, after a three-year wait, a Ukrainian woman was given a special exemption of the nationality renunciation requirement so she could begin the process of naturalization, as Ukraine does not recognize Taiwan as a country nor does it permit its citizens to renounce their citizenship. 

Last time around

In 2015, the government took a stab at easing restrictions which require companies hiring foreign professionals to have paid-in capital of NT$5 million (US$152,855) and sales of NT$10 million. It also was to eliminate the two-year work experience requirement and the minimum monthly salary of NT$47,971. However, labor groups protested that it would bring in more cheap labor that would compete with them for jobs, while others argued lowering an already low rate of pay by Western standards would only worsen the dearth of foreign talent. 

For those wishing to provide feedback on the bill, visit this Join Platform page and leave comments in the sub-issues at the bottom.