I find hexuan’s comments very insightful . . . (as usual). However, let me add a few comments here.
When we started the Foreign Husbands Self Help Committee in April 1994, I was elected the first President. At that time, of course we had a lot of grievances about visas, work permits, entry & exit matters, long term residency, etc. Over the years, due to vigorous lobbying in the Legislative Yuan by me, we have addressed and solved a number of these grievances. A category of permanent residency for foreigners was established in the Immigration Law (May 21, 1999) and applications were accepted beginning January 2000. As of May 2003, foreigners married to local Taiwan citizens have free work rights in the Taiwan area. This took nine years of lobbying . . . and was the major area of concern back at our Public Hearings in the Legislative Yuan in the Spring of 1994.
We re-organized as the National Network of Foreign Spouses in July 1995. This was an attempt to be more receptive to the needs of female foreign spouses as well . . . . . . however, up to the present time I would say that 99% of the email I receive is from “foreign spouses” with a North American and European background. Beyond that there is a scattering of Japanese and African . . . . . . but as for Southeast Asian brides, I am lucky to get two email a year. So, as it has turned out, we have been largely unable to offer any free counseling services (by email) to these people . . . . . maybe to some extent this is due to the language barrier. I can handle email in English or Chinese . . . . . and perhaps these are two languages which are outside the reach of most of the Southeast Asian “foreign spouses”. I don’t know.
Overviewing the concerns of the “foreign spouse community in Taiwan” here in late-Aug. and early-Sept. 2003, (and from my perhaps “limited perspective”, as outlined above . . . ), I would say that some of the major confusing points at the present time are the differing interpretations of various laws and regulations by different government administrative agencies.
I do note that the Taipei Times frequently makes remarks such as " . . . . it is illegal for foreigners to teach in elementary schools, or in kindergartens . . . . . (or in other job categories) . . . . " which in my understanding is promulgation of incorrect information, because as mentioned above foreign spouses (with residency rights based on marriage) do now have free work rights in the Taiwan area as of May 2003 . . . . . so certainly (in my opinion) the Taipei Times should take some note of this special class of foreigners . . . . . . however again I must admit that often the local Taiwan government agencies do continue to give out incorrect information on this topic, and this is most frustrating . . . . . .
My explanations of the new work permit rules are posted at
So . . . continuing on with this matter . . . . . a few months back we had a Coordination Meeting in the Legislative Yuan with PFP Legislator Chin Hwei-ju about this work permit problem. The representatives from the Ministry of Education said that a foreign spouse could not work as a teacher in a bushiban without a “work permit”, whereby I stated that such an interpretation of the Employment Services Act is clearly nonsense, since Article 48 clearly says that the foreign spouses (with residency rights based on marriage) need no work permit, and since there is no licensing procedure for “English teachers” in Taiwan, so there is no question of these foreign spouses needing a special license to teach English anywhere! (This is an important point of distinction, since to be an accountant, dentist, architect, pilot, nuclear engineer, etc. one certainly does need the relevant license, and ESA Article 48 cannot be interpreted to exclude a foreign spouse from such a requirement.)
However, the Ministry of Education quoted from some administrative regulations of 1999 (or thereabouts) saying that their interpretation was indeed correct . . . . whereby I replied that there is no way that administrative regulations of 1999, 2000, or 2001 can override the provisions of a LAW which was passed by the Legislative Yuan and promulgated by President Chen in 2003!
The Ministry of Education was baffled by this argument! Whereupon Legislator Chin suggested that the Council of Labor Affairs (who sent three representatives to the meeting) issue a clear set of guidelines as to what the scope of ESA Article 48 includes, and what it doesn’t include, so that there would be no possible confusion.
When you think about it, this is extremely reasonable, since the employer who illegally employs a foreigner is subject to a fine, and perhaps a prison term, and of course the foreigner (who is working illegally) can be fined and deported . . . . .
However, the CLA representatives said that it would be impossible to provide such a list! In their rationale, there were 360 categories of work . . . . or more in Taiwan, and hence it would be impossible to come up with a comprehensive list . . . . . . .
THE POINT BEING: Since inquiries about foreign spouse issues generally all come to me at email@example.com . . . . . . and I have been doing “email consulting” on these issues (free of charge to the best of my ability) for eight or more years, so what I see at the present time is still that it is very difficult for the AVERAGE FOREIGN SPOUSE to get a clear and consistent explanation of what the rules, laws, regulations, etc. in Taiwan actually are . . . . and then to orient his/her life around those rules, laws, etc. Different government departments continue to give out contradictory information . . . . . and as seen from the simple example given above, even the Council of Labor Affairs (which is the ESA “relevant central government authority”) cannot decide what ESA Article 48 means.
I have tried to solve this problem through Coordination Meetings at the Legislative Yuan, and through writing inquiries to the various Ministries and Departments asking for clarifications, but it doesn’t seem to do any good . . . . . the Kaohsiung Police Department (for example) does not accept an official CLA or Executive Yuan letter interpreting some clause of the ESA as “authoritative proof” of what the clause means . . . . they go to the Kaohsiung Dept. of Education and ask them, whereby that Department gives a reply based on data and regulations of three or four years ago . . . . . . and currently totally out of date.
So . . . to my way of thinking, the lack of any coordination between government departments, and the resulting confusion in terms of how to deal with all types of daily issues (in the proper legal way) is one very serious problem that foreign spouses currently face. When Richard Hartzell says “Yes, you have totally free work rights in the Taiwan area,” and yet the affected foreign spouse cannot CONFIRM THAT INFORMATION with his/her employer, or his employer’s relevant government agency, or the CLA (via telephone inquiry), etc. . . . . . then there are serious problems of inter-agency coordination here . . . . . . . (the so-called “Chinese departmentalism”) which are actually BEYOND MY POWER TO DEAL WITH.