Taiwan eases rules on naturalization of foreign spouses

Taiwan's parliament on Friday passed an amendment to the Nationality Act which eases restrictions governing the naturalization of foreign spouses married to Taiwanese people.

Taiwan's parliament on Friday passed an amendment to the Nationality Act which eases restrictions governing the naturalization of foreign spouses married to Taiwanese people.

According to the revised law, foreign spouses will not be confined to Article 3 of the act, which had previously stipulated that foreign nationals who apply for naturalization to become a citizen of the ROC should provide proof that they have enough assets or professional skills to support themselves.

In other words, the new Nationality Act will not require foreign spouses to provide evidence to show their financial strength.

Lin Li-chan, a Kuomintang lawmaker, hailed the revision, saying that the new law is very meaningful to many female immigrants who have married Taiwanese men.

The old law had been criticized for discriminating against female foreign spouses who married into families which have relatively weak financial strength.

Most of Taiwan's foreign spouses are from mainland China or Southeast Asian countries.

Before the law was revised, these female foreign spouses must meet the requirements for financial proof when they apply for naturalization in Taiwan.

"It is a wonderful gift to these female immigrants in Taiwan," Chen said.

The amended law also stipulates that foreign spouses who get a divorce after suffering from domestic violence and never get married again, or those whose Taiwanese spouses have passed away but who still live with and take care of other family members, can stay in Taiwan and remain eligible for naturalization.

In addition, the amendment will no longer require naturalization applicants to first renounce their citizenship in their home country. Instead, they can provide proof that they have abandoned their original nationality within a year after they become naturalized in Taiwan.

Under the old law, naturalization applicants could become people without any nationality if their applications are rejected by Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior after abandoning their original nationality.

But the new law reads that if people fail to provide proof of renouncing their original nationality in one year after they become naturalized in Taiwan, their citizenship will be withdrawn.

Lawmakers have also taken some abstract wording from the original law governing naturalization applications' conduct, and revised the law to instead ask the applicants to provide proof of no criminal record.

But the law does not address restrictions that have been a source of widespread criticism by immigrant rights groups and others -- that is a divorced foreign spouse who has not obtained an ID card or permanent residency status, cannot stay if she is not granted child custody, unless a judge makes an exception.

And even if she gets custody, she can only stay till her child is 20 years old, unless she has a substantial amount of money in savings and assets and no criminal record. The amount has been as high as NT$5 million (US$155,000).

Such rules have been criticized as treating foreign spouses, most of whom are women, as only valuable to Taiwan if they are someone's wife or a mother of a child.

The current rules are considered only slightly less discriminatory; spouses would still have to be a wife or a caretaker of a family member to stay; simply being the mother of a Taiwanese child is not enough.