New ARC numbering system to match Taiwan national ID format by June 2019

New ARC numbering system to be brought in line with Taiwan national ID format starting in June 2019: MOI

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Sample ARC card. (Photo from Ministry of the Interior)

Sample ARC card. (Photo from Ministry of the Interior)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Ministry of Interior's (MOI's) planned change of the numbering system for Alien Residency Certificates (ARCs) to match that of the Taiwan national identification cards is likely to go into effect by the "first half of next year," said Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) in an interview with CNA. 

On Oct. 28, the MOI announced that, in order to create a friendly living environment for immigrants and to implement the government's policy of attracting and recruiting foreign talent, the government has decided to amend the coding system for ARCs to match the format of Taiwan national ID cards. The MOI said the new measure will enable immigrants residing in Taiwan to "live with dignity."

In an recent interview with Taiwan Business TOPICS, a monthly publication by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, Hsu said that the new measure would improve the convenience for foreign residents in Taiwan and enhance their sense of belonging, by enabling them to more easily make online purchases, book tickets, and register for visits, with as much ease as their Taiwanese counterparts. 

The MOI said it will change the current ARC numbering system from two letters and an eight-digit number, to one letter and a nine-digit number to match the format of Taiwanese national ID cards. The MOI said it will coordinate with all departments and important business associations to help integrate the changes into the information systems of both the private and public sectors.

The advantage of altering the numbering system to put it in sync with Taiwan ID numbers would be to make it easier for foreigners living in Taiwan to fill out online registration systems, book reservations, make bank transactions, purchase travel insurance, participate in credit card promotions, and sign up for online job banks, to name a few. 

In an interview with CNA, Hsu said that data in government computer systems and drop-down menus on government websites would need to be updated. He also said that the MOI has been communicating with the Cabinet in getting funding for the change and said that he hoped work could begin on the project "by the end of this year."

The introduction of the new ARC numbering system will require modifications to the computer systems of the MOI, NIA, Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Ministry of Health and Welfare, and Financial Supervisory Commission. Some foreigners are concerned that the change in ID number will mean that they will have to re-register for their health insurance, labor insurance, bank account, phone or internet services, driver's license, work permit, and other services.

In response to these concerns, an official from the National Immigration Agency (NIA) told CNA that ARC card holders would not be issued a new number until they renew their existing ones, and they would not be required to change the number if they do not wish to. On the other hand, if ARC card holders wish to receive the new ID card before their existing one expires, they can do so as well, said the official.

The MOI said that this is a major institutional change that is ahead of the majority of the world's countries and, in terms of food, clothing, housing, and transportation, it marks a major milestone in Taiwan's immigration policy for resident immigrants by implementing treatment on an equal footing with citizens. The MOI hopes that the new numbering system will help pave the way for retaining and recruiting talent.

Hsu said the MOI will make every effort to speed up the pace of the implementation and that "the Ministry of the Interior will continue to express the greatest goodwill to all the immigrants living in Taiwan, and wholeheartedly welcome foreign friends to Taiwan."

As for the current number of people holding ARCs in Taiwan, the NIA estimates there are about one million people, including 690,000 migrant workers, more than 30,000 white-collar wage earners, and about 300,000 new immigrants who have not yet obtained their national ID cards. Therefore, when the new version of the residence permit goes into effect next year, it is estimated that about one million people will benefit.