American man petitions government in hopes of reuniting with wife

An American surgeon on Friday hand-delivered a petition to the Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA), calling for entry permission to be granted to family members of foreign residents in Taiwan who have been separated from their families because of COVID-19-related border restrictions.

The United States national, a 36-year-old man, identified as only Alvin, took the action on behalf of a group of 11 foreign residents who want to be reunited with their family members in Taiwan.

A certified surgeon in the U.S., Alvin is currently on a fellowship program at a reconstructive surgery center in Linkou, New Taipei. He has been trying to convince the government to allow his wife to enter Taiwan on humanitarian grounds as they have been separated for about a month.

"Every day I come home and I'm used to seeing my wife and now I come home and I'm just alone. It's hard to deal with it easily because you have a lot of emotions when you really miss somebody," Alvin told CNA.

"Every day I wish that she could be here, so we could spend our time together as a husband and wife," he said.

Taiwan began imposing pandemic-related border controls in January 2020, and the rules have been adjusted since depending on the progression of the disease.

After Taiwan saw an unprecedented surge in domestic COVID-19 cases in May, the country banned all arrivals, with the exception of citizens and legal residents, from May 19.

The petition that Alvin delivered to BOCA represents the 11-member group called "Taiwan A Home for All," made up of six working professionals and five students from Colombia, Indonesia, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, Lithuania, Belgium, Turkey, and the U.S.

They call Taiwan their home and hope that the government can allow their spouses and children to enter Taiwan just like before the May 19 decree so that they can reunite with their families, according to a statement issued by the group.

The petitioners hope the government will allow their loved ones to enter Taiwan on dependent visas, the statement said.

The group also launched a petition Nov. 5 on the Public Policy Online Participation Platform, which allows citizens and permanent residents to propose policy suggestions to the government.

Another resident affected by the policy is a Malaysian national surnamed Yeong (?), who came to Taiwan to pursue a doctoral degree in 2020.

A mother of two young children, Yeong has been forced to put her research on hold and return to Malaysia, as Taiwan's current border restrictions prevent her from bringing her young children to Taiwan.

She went back to Malaysia on July 2 to look after her children, one of whom had 12 teeth extracted Thursday because of the poor care the child had received in the past 11 months, Yeong said through online messaging.

After receiving the petition, Pauline Chen (???), director of BOCA's Visa Division, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs follows the policies of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on issuing visas.

Pauline Chen (right) receives the petition from Alvin. CNA photo Nov. 19, 2021

"This petition represents people we highly value, so we will provide the information to the CECC to let them know that the voices of the group can be considered while making policies," Chen said.

In a phone interview, CECC spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (???) said that the issue of allowing the spouses and children of foreign nationals to enter Taiwan was under discussion, but gave no definitive timeline.

The CECC's concern is that there might be too many people traveling to Taiwan before the Lunar New Year holiday from Jan. 29-Feb. 6 next year, he said.

However, he said if the competent authority of each individual applicant is willing to submit a special request to the CECC for the entry of their spouse and children before Dec. 14, then there will be a chance of approval.

Chuang cited the competent authority as the agency to which the individual had submitted his or her paperwork to enter Taiwan.

For example, if the person was a professional hired by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the economic ministry would be the competent authority, Chuang explained.

When asked further about how high the chances of approval would be, Chuang said each application will be looked at as a special case, but he could not give any further details.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel