In my many years of being in Taiwan and talking about dual nationality, I have usually heard words of support, but occasionally people have voiced their concerns as well. Here I will list all of the common arguments I have encountered against allowing dual nationality for foreigners, and why I think these reasons are mainly based on misconceptions and misunderstandings.
There are always many different opinions about any topic, especially one as important as nationality and citizenship. Some people may disagree with dual nationality in principle, and that's absolutely fine—in the end, it's up to the Taiwanese people to decide whether to allow it or not. But I do hope that those who are against of dual nationality will read this article, to see if any of the reasons for their position are included here, and to reconsider the validity of those reasons.
- Dual nationals cannot be loyal to two countries at once, giving up original citizenship is the only way to prove loyalty.
Many dual nationals around the world would prove otherwise, including the many existing Taiwanese dual nationals both in Taiwan and elsewhere. With the advent of relatively low-cost transcontinental flights and boom in communications technology, many people maintain significant ties to multiple places.
Dual national males in Taiwan still need to do military service if they are of legal age. Dual nationals still need to pay taxes and take on all of the obligations that come with citizenship. Some countries forbid dual nationals from using any of the benefits associated with their second nationality while in-country, such as consular services or local programs (e.g., scholarships, tax exemptions, etc.) intended to support foreigners.
Additionally, dual nationals in Taiwan are already prohibited from holding public office under the existing law. Dual nationals who wish to run for office must renounce their second citizenship, and this is already relatively common as we have seen in previous elections.
These are all reasonable restrictions.
- "Foreigners" do not understand Taiwanese language, history, politics and culture well enough to fully integrate.
This view is, in many ways, against foreign naturalization in Taiwan altogether, not just dual nationality. Thankfully, this view is relatively rare in Taiwan. In my experience, most Taiwanese understand that foreigners are just as capable as they are of understanding Taiwan.
The reality is that there are vibrant communities of Taiwanophiles from different backgrounds all over Taiwan, and most long-term foreign residents are well-studied in Taiwanese issues. Many of these immigrants are already fully integrated into Taiwanese society, apart from obtaining full citizenship due to the renunciation requirement. There are also existing support programs to help new immigrants assimilate and improve their language skills and cultural understanding, and there is nothing wrong with encouraging them to do so.
- Taiwan will become overrun with immigrants, exacerbating overpopulation in what is already a very small country.
Taiwan already has a huge number of foreign residents, and a healthy immigration program brings a number of benefits. While allowing dual nationality may motivate more immigration to Taiwan, it is unlikely to be a significant amount relative to the existing foreign population.
- A flood of wealthy immigrants will cause housing and property prices to further inflate, pricing out Taiwanese citizens.
With some restrictions, foreign residents are already allowed to buy property in Taiwan. Foreign residents with a Taiwanese spouse have effectively no restrictions, as they can buy property under their spouse's name. Immigrants who are wealthy enough to cause property prices to go up may already do so freely, and allowing dual nationality is not going to change that.
Obtaining nationality is still desirable, however, as owning property does not guarantee that one is able to enter and live in Taiwan. In theory, a foreign resident could buy property, only to later be denied entry into Taiwan—I doubt if this happens frequently in practice, but it may be a legitimate concern nonetheless. Taiwanese nationality also gives better access to financial services such as mortgages that many young people need to afford housing.
- Foreigners will take jobs away from Taiwanese.
While this argument is used around the world by those against immigration, it is rarely true. Firstly, foreigners can already come to Taiwan for work, provided they are qualified and find a job that meets certain requirements. And secondly, many foreigners work in positions that Taiwanese are either unwilling or unable to do, such as those requiring specific language or cultural skills. A more diverse workforce increases Taiwan's competitiveness around the world.
Foreign business owners and entrepreneurs may even provide job opportunities that would not otherwise exist. Many famous American companies, Apple, Google and Tesla for example, were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. Economics is not a zero-sum game; everyone can and should be encouraged to contribute their unique set of skills that, ultimately, makes everyone better off.
- PRC citizens will abuse the system to keep both PRC and ROC nationality, presenting a danger to national security.
PRC citizens are not covered under the term "foreign national" laid out the Nationality Act. Referred to in Taiwanese law as "citizens from mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau," these people cannot naturalize in Taiwan, but they can "restore" ROC (Taiwanese) nationality through the process of household registration. This process is laid out in the Household Registration Act and related legislation, and is entirely separate from the naturalization process for foreign nationals.
- Permanent residence ought to be good enough, nationality is unnecessary.
In most countries, permanent residence (known as the "green card" in the U.S.) is considered a stepping stone to citizenship. Permanent residence in Taiwan is not actually permanent, as permanent residents must regularly visit Taiwan or risk it being cancelled. Permanent residents are also treated the same as short-term foreign residents for all intents and purposes, rather than as people who are very close to citizenship. Permanent residents face nearly all of the same restrictions as short-term residents around access to financial services, tax exemptions or subsidies, work and residence rights for their families, and so on.
Additionally, even if all of these issues were addressed in future legislation, many long-term residents would eventually like to be able to fully participate in society, including the right to vote or to become a civil servant. Taiwanese people, as strong proponents of a participatory democracy, fully understand the desire to have a voice and a vote. Ultimately, the only way to obtain these rights is through naturalization.
- There are already enough exceptions in place for most people to obtain dual nationality.
- Restricting dual nationality to natural-born citizens is an international standard, most countries have similar laws.
I have previously written about these two issues at length. The reality is that Taiwan has one of the most restrictive dual nationality policies of any country that allows some dual nationality, and that an open dual nationality policy is the norm among modern democracies.
- Taiwan is ethnically homogeneous, and should be kept that way.
This is a touchy topic, for both Taiwanese and foreigners. While it is relatively uncommon for Taiwanese to admit holding this view, at least publicly, it does exist and deserves a more thorough discussion. I plan to write about it in more detail in a future post.
You can help!
If someone you know may be eligible for Taiwanese naturalization, please share this article with them, and like us on Facebook and Twitter to show your support. If you are eligible for naturalization, but are unwilling or unable to proceed due to the renunciation requirement, please join our mailing list. You'll be the first to know of any meeting, rally, press conference, or other public action where your support would be most valuable.