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ECCT Premium Event: Lunch with National Immigration Agency Director General

On 6 February the ECCT hosted a Premium Event lunch with special guest Dr Hsieh Li-kung, Director General of the National Immigration Agency (NIA) under the Ministry of Interior. While the ECCT has often met with the NIA, this was the first event that the chamber has arranged with the Director General of the NIA and top agency officials that was open to all ECCT members. Besides getting a briefing from Director General Hsieh, attending guests were afforded the opportunity to discuss issues of concern informally with DG Hsieh and senior officials who attended the lunch related to immigration, employment, health and other regulations governing foreign nationals living and working in Taiwan. Among other topics, DG Hsieh briefed attending guests on the NIA's plans for the forthcoming year to make immigration rules and procedures more efficient.
- The NIA is tasked with safeguarding the rights and interest of immigrants and foreign residents in Taiwan, among other important functions. In recent years the agency has made great progress towards making life more convenient for foreign nationals living and working in Taiwan.
- Substantial progress has been made during DG Hsieh's term of office. Much of this progress was in response to recommendations made by the ECCT, particularly in the position papers submitted by the Better Living committee.
- Progress made over the years includes the relaxation of numerous rules governing Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) holders.
- More recently, the rolling out of 30 e-Gates at Taiwan's main immigration entry points (including Taoyuan International Airport, Taipei International Airport and Kaohsiung Airport) have made immigration much easier for foreign residents.
- More than 6,600 foreign nationals residing in Taiwan have registered to use airport e-Gates since the automated immigration clearance system was opened to ARC holders in September 2012 and more than 17,800 entries and exits had been made through the e-Gates by Taiwan's foreign residents to date.
- Equipped with infrared sensors, facial recognition cameras and passport readers, the system can complete immigration checks in less than 10 seconds, according to Hsieh. Another 15 e-Gates are expected to be installed and made operational in April this year.
- Another issue that is pending legislative review is the possible extension of the length of time that holders of Alien Permanent Foreign Resident Permits (APRCs) may stay abroad before their permits are revoked. Currently APRC holders must stay in Taiwan for at least 183 days every year if their APRCs are to remain valid. However, the NIA has submitted a proposal to allow APRC holders to keep their APRCs valid as long as they visit Taiwan at least once every five years.
- This proposal went even further than the ECCT's recommendation in the Better Living committee's 2013 Position Paper. If approved by the legislature, it would make life much more flexible for long-term residents in Taiwan, who have busy overseas travel schedules but want to be able to return to live and work in Taiwan periodically.
- DG Hsieh also announced that the NIA has submitted proposals for legislative review that would make life easier for spouses and children of APRC holders. For example the NIA wants to allow APRC spouses and children to be eligible to apply for APRCs and to relax rules regarding their medical check-ups.
- DG Hsieh concluded by saying that despite great progress made in recent years, the NIA wants to make it even easier for foreign residents to live and work in Taiwan. In this regard, he expressed willingness to maintain close and regular contact with the ECCT and to be the government's contact window to report all problems facing foreign nationals living and working in Taiwan.

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