'High-level professionals' no longer have to renounce citizenship

A complete list of categories of foreigners who no longer have to renounce citizenship to become Taiwanese citizens

ID card of Brendan O'Connell who recently became a Taiwanese citizen. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Certain, select 'high-level professionals' in priority fields will no longer be subject to the contentious requirement of renouncing the citizenship of their birth to become Taiwanese citizens, the Ministry of the Interior announced on Friday. 

On March 24, the ministry promulgated a regulation as a supplement to an amendment to the Nationality Act (國籍法) passed by the legislature in December last year which gave special exemptions and extensions for the requirement that foreign national to renounce their citizenship before being eligible to become a Taiwanese citizen. 

Previously, all foreign nationals had to first give up their original citizenship before they could be approved as Taiwanese nationals, a procedure which might turn them into stateless persons if the Taiwanese authorities rejected their applications. The following are the six categories of foreign nationals who will be allowed to retain their prior citizenship:

1. Science and Technology

  1. Professionals in high-value technical fields such as nanotechnology, optoelectronics, information technology, biotechnology, military science and technology. 
  2. Experts in artificial intelligence, internet of things, blockchain technology, virtual reality, robotics,  additive layer manufacturing, and outstanding R&D design.

2. Economics

  1. Those who can promote the upgrading of Taiwan's industries through their knowledge of key technologies, key product components, or other unique professional skills.
  2. Those who are specialized in promoting the development of agriculture through agricultural marketing, machinery, equipment, and semiconductors. Specialists in other industries where Taiwan lacks talent including: integrated circuits, optoelectronics, communications, electronic circuit design, biotechnology medical materials, precision machinery, automotive components, systems integration, mass communications, law, insurance, banking, translation, consulting, green energy, medical care, cultural creativity, tourism, and those with "outstanding professional abilities" or transnational experience. 

3. Education

  1. Foreigners who are employed at a Taiwanese academic institution with a rank of assistant professor or above. 
  2. Foreigners who are employed as researchers and technical personnel at Taiwanese research institutions.
  3. Foreigners who have had their academic activities or research recognized by national authorities, famous international academic societies, or been awarded by prestigious groups. Those who have had their academic works published in internationally renowned academic journals. 

4. Cultural or Artistic Fields

  1. Those who have received recognition from well-known critics, cultural or arts associations, or major media outlets. 
  2. Those who have held outstanding evaluations for their activities at art fairs, exhibitions and other artistic events. 
  3. Those who have received domestic or internationally recognized awards or are the judges of such awards.
  4. Members of organizations that have received outstanding achievements. 
  5. Persons involved in the preservation, maintenance, transmission of cultural assets. 
  6. Outstanding performers in music, dance, art, drama, literature, folk art, crafts, environmental art, photography, radio, film television, and other literary and artistic endeavors. 

5. Sports

  1. Athletes who have finished in the top three places in international competitions.
  2. National team coaches, international sports competition referees, or those who have helped improve the performance of Taiwan in international athletic competitions. 

6. Other areas

  1. Distinguished advocates of democracy, human rights, religion and other important efforts or internationally renowned deeds. 
  2. Those recognized for their contribution to finance, medicine, highways, high-speed rail, mass rapid transit systems, telecommunications, aviation, shipping, deep water construction, meteorology, seismology, and popular culture. 
  3. Those who have excellent talents in sociology, nutrition and fashion. 

Those foreign nationals who do not fall under one of the specified categories for exemption will have one year to renounce their prior citizenship. If they fail to do so, their Taiwanese citizenship application will be pronounced as invalid. 

The ministry said the new amendment does not apply to Chinese citizens or residents of Hong Kong or Macau, as the naturalization process for them is dictated by the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例).

Many foreigners have criticized this decision for complicating the process, rather than simply allowing all foreign nationals wishing to retain their original nationality to do so. While others say that the regulation is elitist and discriminatory against the majority of foreign nationals who would not fit into these categories, including the more than half a million immigrants who are married to Taiwanese citizens, nearly 200,000 of whom are from developing Southeast Asian countries.