Ministry retains ‘good moral character’ requirement for naturalization

Taipei-- The Ministry of the Interior said Tuesday that it is necessary to retain the "good moral character" requirement for new immigrants seeking Republic of China citizenship.

Prostitution, drunk driving and other offenses that the local authorities consider to be less severe may not appear on a local police criminal record, but could still affect social order, "and so it is necessary to retain such a requirement" in the Nationality Act governing non-citizens who are seeking Taiwan citizenship, ministry officials said.

Article 3 of the act requires applicants to "have demonstrated good moral character and to have no criminal record."

The officials of the ministry's Department of Household Registration Affairs were responding to a call by the Alliance for Human Rights Legislation for Immigrants and Migrants to remove Article 3's "good moral character" requirement from the Nationality Act.

The alliance urged the government to change the "no criminal record" requirement to "no-criminal-cases record that can be proved by an absence of a police criminal record."

The public cannot accept the idea that they should be punished for such minor offenses, while foreigners or new immigrants with records of such offenses can apply for Taiwanese citizenship, they said.

They quoted naturalization laws of other countries such as Canada, Korea, Singapore and Australia as requiring applicants for naturalization to "have good moral character" so that once they become citizens they will not adversely impact national security and social mores.

In the United States, they said, people who fail to pay for their children's education or those who get drunk or use illegal drugs are considered as "not demonstrating good moral character."

They further pointed out that in Japan, drunk driving, unintentional crime and theft are also listed as behaviors "not showing good moral character."

The ministry has invited academics and specialists to discuss how precisely to define what kinds of people have "not demonstrated good moral character."

During two rounds of discussions, on March 15 and April 10, participants said that after taking into account both new immigrant's rights and local people's perceptions about new immigrants, they would recommend listing only "serious" minor offenses as "not demonstrating good moral character" -- such as offenses in which indictment has been confirmed but delayed or offenses for which prison terms, fines or delayed execution of the sentence have been handed down.

Also to be considered as "serious" minor offenses are using hallucinogenic drugs and gathering to engage in gang fights, failure to live up to legal obligations to support a spouse or dependent children, habitual domestic violence and seriously damaging the public interest.

Ministry officials said these offenders will be given two to three years of observation, after which, if they do not repeat their offenses, they will be permitted to re-submit their applications for naturalization.

"This is a policy that takes into account both the applicant's rights and the national interest," they said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel