CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan eases border restrictions for some foreign residents’ family

The spouses and minor children of some of Taiwan's foreign residents will now be able to apply for a special entry permit into the country, according to a Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA) statement on Friday, bringing joy to families that have been separated because of COVID-19 border restrictions, but others still need to wait.

The spouses and minor children of Taiwan resident certificate holders, excluding migrant workers and students, will now be able to apply for a special entry permit visa and Taiwanese overseas missions will review related qualified applications accordingly, BOCA said in a statement.

The loosened guidelines will make it possible for the families of foreign working professionals to come to Taiwan.

Upon learning of the BOCA statement, a Burkina Faso man identified as Kam, who is an assistant sales manager in a Taiwan manufacturing company, told CNA that he will apply for his wife and child to come to Taiwan to be reunited with him.

Presently, his wife and 14-month-old daughter are in Malaysia, Kam said.

He met his Malaysian wife while studying in Taiwan and they got married after graduation. However, she went back to Malaysia in July 2020 to give birth and has not been able to reenter Taiwan, Kam said.

"So far, I haven't gotten the chance to hold my baby girl in my arm since her birth. As Malaysian borders are also closed, I can't go there either," Kam said. "If the application works, our new family will be reunited for the first time. Can't even imagine it."

Taiwan began imposing pandemic-related border controls in January 2020 in response to COVID-19, and the rules have been adjusted since, based 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.

It has since allowed overseas students, Indonesian migrant workers, spouses and minor children of Taiwan nationals to enter Taiwan, but up until Saturday, has not allowed the spouses and minor children of foreign residents to enter.

BOCA's statement came after a group named "Taiwan A Home for All," petitioned the government last month to allow their spouses and children to enter Taiwan.

At the time, the group was made up of six working professionals and five students from Colombia, Indonesia, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, Lithuania, Belgium, Turkey, and the United States.

After the group gained media attention, it expanded to eight working professionals and five students from the aforementioned countries and Burkina Faso.

In response to their petition, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said last month that 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.

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

The group then submitted their petitions to relevant government authorities, which are the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) for the working professionals and the Ministry of Education (MOE) for the students.

However, as foreign students are still not able to bring their spouses and children over to Taiwan, an American surgeon, identified as only Alvin, who is currently on a fellowship program at a reconstructive surgery center in Linkou, New Taipei, has since been trying to convince the government to allow his wife to enter Taiwan.

He is glad for those who can now reunite with their loved ones and said he and his wife understand that managing the pandemic is Taiwan's primary priority, but they are disappointed that they could not be united, Alvin said.

"We still miss each other very much and would like to be together. Most students in the U.S. that we know who traveled there from other countries for their graduate studies were allowed to bring their families with them, and it seems to us to be a basic right to allow immediate families to stay together," Alvin said.

Also in the same situation 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 last month because of the poor care the child had received in the past 11 months, Yeong said through online messaging.

"I hope the MOE can consider students with family. My supervisor is worried about my situation, as he just messaged me again this week," Yeong said. "I need to return soon for committee meeting and seminar."

University staff have also notified her that if she doesn't return to Taiwan, it may delay her graduation, Yeong said

She has also not received any reply from the MOE regarding the petition.

In response, the MOE said they have not allowed the entry of family members of international students since they announced the re-entry of international students on Aug. 23.

The spouses, minor children, and children with disabilities of international students will not be considered for special case entry into Taiwan because of concerns over COVID-19 variants, and due to limited quarantine, testing, and medical resources, the MOE said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel