I, like so many other "foreigners" (I really hate that word), have made Taiwan my home. I first arrived in 2008 and taught English in Taipei and Kaohsiung. Later, I went to graduate school at NTHU, and have subsequently worked as an engineer and owned a local company. My family is Taiwanese - we speak Mandarin at home and Taiwanese with my in-laws. We do all of the normal "Taiwanese" stuff like night markets and holidays in Hualien or Kenting. I pay my taxes. I've been eligible for Taiwanese naturalization for quite a few years already.
And yet, I'm not really able to become Taiwanese.
Not because I don't want to be. I would love to get my Taiwanese ID card and passport, to be able to open a normal bank account with access to financial services beyond a checking account, to apply for credit cards, to go house shopping knowing that I would be able to secure a mortgage, to own land, and to vote. There are many categories of jobs I will never be allowed to have, from government work to simply driving a taxi. There are hundreds of cases you can find online about foreigners, even permanent residents, not being able to shop online, rent a car, or as recently announced in Taipei, use the public city bicycles.
So why am I not Taiwanese?
Well, I have another family - my own mom and dad, siblings, aunts and uncles and cousins. And they live in another country – where we also sometimes go on holiday, and where we have even lived for a year. Where I will eventually have to spend more time to take care of my parents. I, like many in Taiwan (including many Taiwanese), have roots in the US. So, as much as I would like to become Taiwanese, I can't, because unlike my Taiwanese friends and family who can become dual nationals, the law forces me, as a foreigner, to choose. And that is not a choice I can make.
Most Taiwanese are not aware of this law - and why should they be? But I contend that they should be, indeed. Dual nationality would allow the thousands of people in my situation to become citizens of the country they live in. Taiwan is a multicultural, multi-ethnic and democratic country that, like so many democracies around the world, would only benefit from welcoming a more diverse group of people with different backgrounds, experiences, and skills to integrate fully in society as citizens.
Taiwan, in many ways, has exploded with creativity and new ideas in the 21st century, but in many ways still, it lags behind. When will we see the first non-ethnic Chinese and non-aboriginal Taiwanese politicians or large business owners? There are many hundreds of thousands of foreigners living in Taiwan, many of them permanently. When will Taiwan realize that it is squandering a great asset - that diversity of thought and diversity of talent - by refusing this talent pool full access to Taiwanese society?
And that is the reason I have made this blog. So that I and others in similar situations might find a way to connect and to find local support. There is only one small line of text in the Nationality Act standing between us and Taiwanese citizenship. It is my hope that with some organization and local support from our friends and families, we will be successful in getting this line of text removed.
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.