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Article 9 (full text at bottom of page) of the Nationality Act was amended in 2016. Prior to the amendment, all foreigners were required to renounce their original nationality prior to naturalization. This led to the unfortunate circumstance of some people who had renounced their nationality, only to be rejected during the naturalization process and left stateless. The 2016 version allows for a multi-step process:

  1. A special status of Taiwanese nationality called NWOHR or National Without Household Registration is granted.
  2. Original nationality must be renounced within 1 year.
  3. Taiwanese household registration (full citizenship) is granted after one year of continuous presence in Taiwan.

The process is also outlined in a detailed flow chart provided by the Department of Household Registration, which sits under the Ministry of the Interior.

The law for foreigners wishing to naturalize in Taiwan is clear: renunciation of original nationality is a clear requirement, it is enforced, and I have heard of people having their nationality approval revoked due to being unable to provide the required documentation. Importantly, the MOI does in fact check every case with the relevant embassy or representative office in Taiwan. In some cases, such as South Africa, the local bureaucracy is so hard to work with that it is nearly impossible to get any certificate, either showing that citizenship has been renounced or that renunciation is not permitted. In some cases, obtaining such documentation requires extensive travel to make in-person appearances at home, or payment of large fees.

US citizens have a particularly big problem. The renunciation fee itself is sizable at $2,350, but incredibly the US government requires citizens with a larger net worth to pay capital gains tax on their entire estate at the time they give up their citizenship. This so-called exit tax could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to give up one's citizenship.

Special Circumstances

The law (see below) mentions some exceptions for special circumstances. The first, naturalization pursuant to Article 6, requires a special permission from the MOI, and is not relevant for most people.

Theoretically, the high-level professionals exception should allow more people to obtain dual nationality, but in practice this designation is reserved for very exceptional individuals such as those who have won a globally recognized award or similar honor in their field. The guidelines and review process are also unclear, and it is impossible to know how to qualify for this exception in advance.

This exception was much heralded during the 2016 amendment to the Nationality Act, but in reality it has had an embarrassingly small impact. According to a December report from the MOI, the high-level professional exception was used for a grand total of 119 cases from 2017 to 2019.[1] This is out of a total of nearly 10,000 naturalizations during the same period, 90% of which were Vietnamese, Filipino, and Indonesian women married to Taiwanese men.

The final exception, which is for those unable to give up their citizenship, ensures that the law applies in an unequal way to people from different countries of origin. New Zealand citizens, for example, are not allowed to renounce their citizenship. The New Zealand government simply provides a letter to that effect, and a New Zealander can obtain dual nationality in Taiwan without trouble. Citizens of most countries, however, have no such option available.

Double Nationality: Double Standards

The laws for Taiwanese nationals are quite different. The relevant law (Article 11, see below) says that unless a Taiwanese national submits an application, and unless that application is accepted and approved by the MOI, a Taiwanese national is free to obtain dual citizenship. This is clearly the case, given how many Taiwanese are married to foreign nationals and would fall into circumstance (2), and how many have acquired dual nationality and would fall into circumstance (3).

In fact, the Nationality Act implicitly acknowledges the reality of Taiwanese holding dual nationality without renunciation, as Article 20 provides that:

A national of the ROC who acquires the nationality of another country has no right to hold government offices of the ROC.

To allow Taiwanese nationals to obtain dual nationality, and to allow some foreign nationals to obtain dual nationality under some unclear circumstances, while denying a large number of tax-paying residents, permanent residents, and spouses of Taiwanese nationals those same rights is of course, a massive double standard. Even if there were no other valid and legitimate reason to allow and even encourage dual nationality in Taiwan - and there are plenty - this alone should be enough to convince the Taiwanese people that the Nationality Act is in need of adjustment.

In fairness and to ensure that all are treated equally under the law, which is the gold standard of any democratic country, either everyone should be allowed dual nationality or no one should. At the very least, the principle of reciprocity should be followed in recognition of dual nationality with other countries.


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[1] Edited 2019-01-01. The text previously read:

According to a July report from the MOI, the high-level professional exception was used for a grand total of 88 cases from 2017 to 2019.

Appendix

Read the complete Nationality Act here.

Nationality Act, Article 9:

Foreign nationals applying for naturalization shall provide a certificate of loss of original nationality within one year from the day of approval of naturalization or from the day of reaching the age at which they may renounce nationality under the law of their original country.

Failure to submit a certificate of loss of original nationality within the prescribed period shall result in the revocation of the approval of naturalization. However, an application for a deadline extension may be filed in the event of inability to submit said certificate due to legal or administrative restrictions of their original country as verified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign nationals shall not be allowed to reside in Taiwan prior to the submission of a certificate of loss of original nationality as prescribed in the preceding two paragraphs.

Foreign nationals may be exempted from submitting a certificate of loss of original nationality if any of the following circumstances apply:

1. They apply for naturalization pursuant to Article 6.
2. They are high-level professionals in the technological, economic, educational, cultural, art, sports, or other domains who have been recommended by the central competent authority, whose specialties are deemed to serve the interests of the ROC, and who have been approved through a joint review organized by the Ministry of the Interior and conducted by relevant agencies and impartial individuals.
3. They are unable to obtain a certificate of loss of original nationality for reasons not attributable to them.

Standards to define high-level professionals as referred to in Subparagraph 2 of the preceding paragraph shall be prescribed by the Ministry of the Interior.

Nationality Act, Article 11:

ROC nationals shall lose their ROC nationality, subject to approval by the Ministry of the Interior, if any of the following circumstances apply:

1. They are legally incompetent persons or persons with limited legal competence whose rights and obligations are exercised by, or who are under the guardianship of, their (adoptive) father or (adoptive) mother of foreign nationality, and who seek to acquire the nationality of their foreign (adoptive) father or (adoptive) mother and relocate with him or her to a location outside the territory of the ROC.
2. They are married to a foreign national.
3. They are competent under ROC law and voluntarily acquire the nationality of another country. Persons under assistantship must obtain approval from their assistant.

Unmarried minor children of persons who lose their ROC nationality pursuant to the preceding paragraph shall also lose their ROC nationality subject to approval by the Ministry of the Interior.