Taiwan to tighten residency rules for Hongkongers

Surge in applications prompts rethink of special requirements for residents of city and Macau

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 4:51am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 12:22pm

A surge in the number of Hongkongers and Macau residents applying to live in Taiwan has prompted immigration officials in Taipei to propose tighter regulations on permanent residency.

Their proposals call for a doubling of the sum people from the two special administrative regions must invest to qualify for "investment immigrant" status, an official with the National Immigration Agency said. The new figure would be NT$10 million (HK$2.55 million) - much more than the NT$6 million for investors from elsewhere in the world.

A clause that allows residents of the two cities to acquire residency by having NT$5 million or more in a Taiwanese bank account for more than a year would also go, she said, citing the fact no other country or territory offered such an arrangement.

Rules on residency for relatives would also be tightened. Hongkongers would no longer be able to apply on the basis that their spouse had a sibling or parent with Taiwanese residency.

"The tightening is to prevent an unusually sharp rise in the number of immigrants to Taiwan," said the official, who is in charge of drafting the proposal.

On the investment visa, the official said: "Our statistics show that not many Hong Kong or Macau investors are interested in becoming citizens, despite making huge investments in Taiwan."

For family applications, "only direct or blood relatives, like children, parents, and spouses, will be able to apply to become our citizens in future".

The number of applications shot up in September last year. After averaging about 100 from January to August, the number of residency applications surged to 632 that month alone.

Some Taiwanese media said the applications reflected Hongkongers' unhappiness with the local government and Beijing's involvement in the city's affairs, citing the creation of an "evacuate to Taiwan" Facebook page.

There may be better news for Hongkongers who stay in Taiwan after studying there.

They may be able to apply for residency after five years, with a requirement that they return home for at least two years dropped.

The official said the proposals would have to be approved by the Interior Ministry and the cabinet, a process that takes between three and six months.