One aspect of living in Taiwan long-term that I don’t like is the high likelihood I will never be able to vote in any type of election. Whether it be for the local government or for the president, I’m probably going to be relegated to being a taxpayer with no say.
But hey, I knew that before coming to Taiwan and it’s never been something that I can be too obtuse about. Instead, I feel a little bit of sadness knowing I’ll probably keep discussing politics in Taiwan and making memes, but I’ll never belong to the political system that affects my life and that I pay my taxes into. Again, I chose this, and I’m not resentful.
Why Can’t You Vote 外國人?
Well, I’m a 外國人, and I don’t hold citizenship, hence why I can’t vote. Yes, captain obvious about that, but bear with me lads. I don’t have a big problem with foreign nationals not having voting rights. After all, voting rights are something that is earned through being awarded citizenship. But, therein lies the problem: I’m probably never going to become a Taiwanese citizen.
Because one of the requirements is just too costly. Here are the requirements listed below:
- An entry/exit document.
- A document from your employer(s) proving employment
- Proof of residence
- Local background check
- Tax reports
- Copies of your current ARC
- Copies of your passport.
- Background check from your home country
These are super easy to get and usually not a problem. Except maybe the background check from my home country (Ireland) because you can’t just request them and need to ask for special permission to get one.
So what’s the problem? You need to cancel your original citizenship.
That’s the ugly catch. Now I understand that Taiwan isn’t alone in this requirement for awarding citizenship to foreign nationals, but it prevents most long-term foreign residents from ever becoming Taiwanese. You could be in Taiwan for 40 years and you’ll still be told you can’t vote, get a car loan, or hell, you will still need a cosigner for your mobile phone plan!
Worst of all, many news outlets brag about how a handful of foreigners get citizenship, and most of them are foreign celebrities, high-level professionals, or priests, and nuns.
You know what that says to me? There is no real immigration policy in Taiwan. It’s all just a mess, and I understand why and I don’t have any resentment.
Modern Immigration is New, and It’s Tough Because of China
I totally understand that modern immigration is new to Taiwan. So many people have come to the shores of Taiwan. Some for the better, but many for the worst. I think the vast majority of Taiwanese see immigration today to be positive.
I often get asked if I will get Taiwanese citizenship, particularly because my partner is Taiwanese. I usually have to explain that being married to someone Taiwanese doesn’t entitle you to Taiwanese citizenship and that I’ll need to lose an important part of my heritage and identity to do it.
No, it’s understandable that immigration is still and the ability to draft more welcoming policies is hindered as always by China.
It’s funny, when pro-Chinese and Chinese nationals that live in Taiwan can get a benefit from being Chinese here, they’ll not shy away from exclaiming they’re Chinese, but if something negative happens, they’ll play the “you’re being racist to us because we’re foreigners.”
It’s a certified rotten move because now all foreigners get thrown under the bus to ensure that pro-CCP individuals can’t easily gain citizenship or have too much influence. It sucks, but it’s understandable. Maybe I’m wrong on this whole angle, and if I am, please let me know, but this is the point of view of why Taiwanese immigration has been so difficult to open up to foreigners that has been explained to me.
A First Step for Immigrant Integration
Now, I am fully aware that the comparing game is a slippery slope, but bear with me.
In Ireland, the government allows non-EU citizens to vote in local elections. What are these elections? Well, they aren’t terribly important but they allow locals in a community to elect members to the local Councillors to them every 5 years. Again, not terribly important, as the general election is what matters most, but at least it is giving non-EU residents in Ireland the ability to have some say in their community.
Perhaps this is the first step in Taiwan? Allow APRC holders to vote in local elections? Is it a stretch? Perhaps, but if someone has lived and worked in Taiwan for over 5 years and contributed tax and helped Taiwan on the international stage, is giving them the ability to have some say in their local community so insane?
Just a side note, 5,000 non-Irish residents were conferred Irish citizenship on March 2nd, 2020. Since 2011, 132,000 people from 180 countries have become new Irish citizens. Yet news outlets in Taiwan brag about a handful of foreign nationals getting citizenship like it’s a success. It isn’t.
Well, I’ll Probably Never Vote, But Maybe That’s Fine
Perhaps I use Taiwanese democracy and society as a surrogacy for the one I left. Hell, people tell me I’m the most Taiwanese foreigner they’ve ever met. Maybe that’s enough for me. After all, it’s not my decision to say I deserve citizenship in Taiwan. That choice belongs to the people here to decide if a foreigner’s contributions to society merit awarding them citizenship.
I just hope one day that decision will be made, and many of us here that love Taiwan and its free and democratic values that it upholds will perhaps have a say in it.
Until then, I’ll keep making memes and looking in from the sidelines. God knows there is enough to keep me busy.