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ECCT urges more equal treatment for foreign nationals

2018/11/21 19:27:56

Taipei, Nov. 21 (CNA) The European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (ECCT) released its 2019 Position Papers on Wednesday, urging the Taiwanese government to further promote the equal treatment of foreign nationals.

The ECCT said it welcomed the government's recent decision to change the number format used on Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) and Alien Permanent Resident Certificate (APRC) identity cards, but also suggested that more could be done.

Under the government's proposal, the numbers 7,8 and 9 will replace the second letter in the ARC/APRC numbers to denote the cardholder's gender, as male, female or transgender, making the format compatible with that of ID numbers provided to Republic of China (Taiwan) nationals.

The program will allow ARC/APRC holders to enjoy services they were previously eligible for but could not access, such as online commerce, the ECCT said.

"The resolution of this issue comes after many years of advocacy by the ECCT and marks a significant step forward towards ensuring fair treatment of foreign nationals," said ECCT Chairman Hakan Cervell.

The policy change will affect about 1 million ARC/APRC holders, including 690,000 migrant workers, 30,000 foreign professionals and 300,000 foreign spouses of Taiwanese citizens who have yet to obtain the Republic of China's IDs, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has said.

The ECCT said it is generally satisfied with the efforts of the Taiwanese government over the past year following their 2018 position papers.

Since the papers were published, the government has made progress on 22 percent of issues raised, the highest level of progress in four years, the ECCT said.

However, the ECCT also recommended more measures the government could implement following the new ARC/APRC program, which the Ministry of the Interior said will likely be introduced in the first half of next year, to make Taiwan more foreign resident-friendly.

There are still areas where long-term foreign residents are treated differently from nationals, the ECCT said, adding that many of the problems stem from the government's tendency to view things through the lens of citizens versus foreign nationals rather than making a distinction between legal residents of Taiwan (both citizens and foreign residents) and non-residents (visitors).

One remaining issue concerns applications for the APRC, the ECCT pointed out.

The ECCT said while it welcomes the passage of the Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals, which loosens restrictions on the long-term validity of APRCs, the change currently only applies to "professionals," and not long-term residents who have achieved their APRCs through marriage or relatives.

For instance, those who get their APRCs through marriages should be treated the same as those who do so through work, which means they should also have the right to maintain their APRC status provided they return to Taiwan at least once every five years.

However, under current regulations, APRC holders who receive them as a result of marriage still need to meet the minimum residency requirement of 183 days per year, the ECCT said.

In addition, the ECCT has asked the government to cancel requirements for APRC holders to apply for a separate work permit as the right to work is automatically granted with the APRC.

Another issue of concern to the ECCT is the uniformity of official English translations of tender documents.

Currently, foreign nationals and even local bidders must translate tender documents themselves, creating an array of different interpretations of the same document, each inconsistent with the others, the ECCT said.

This frequently results in disputes over terminology and, as a consequence, renders the entire process less efficient and exacerbates uncertainty in the procurement market in Taiwan, it argued.

The ECCT therefore recommended that the government set up a new or assign an existing government agency to be responsible for translating government documents.

Also, the ECCT pointed out that Taiwan's regulatory environment is still not fully optimized to meet the needs of a modern economy.

For example, many of Taiwan's regulations are not aligned with international standards, are outdated or not fit for the purpose of future development, it said.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)