Notes for A New Citizen: Registering Your Marriage

This is an update to my previous post about getting dual citizenship in Taiwan, focusing on steps we had to take to update my wife’s resident permit after I got my citizenship. Because my wife’s ARC was originally granted to her as the spouse of an APRC holder, it became invalid when I exchanged my APRC for a Taiwanese National ID Card. It is therefore vital to update your spouse’s ARC soon after getting naturalized as a Taiwanese citizen. This post goes over that process and some of the related laws governing work permits for spouses.

All too often, people assume that anyone living here permanently must already be married to a Taiwanese citizen, or is moving here to get married to one. Increasingly, however, married couples are moving to Taiwan together. I hope Taiwan’s laws can change to better accommodate this new reality. If Taiwan is serious about attracting foreign professionals, they need to make it easier for their spouses to work in Taiwan without having to jump through all kinds of legal and bureaucratic hoops. The spouse of a foreign professional is likely to be a professional as well, but less likely to be able to transfer those skills to a Chinese speaking environment than their partner (who already has a job here). To smooth such a transition, the barriers to meaningful short term employment need to be lowered as much as possible. I know organizations like Forward Taiwan are working to improve these laws, and I hope the government is listening.

As with my previous post, I want to thank Michael Fahey at Winkler Partners for his help throughout this process. Online forums are full of a lot of incorrect information, and the official websites run by the government are written in a style that is full of legalistic bureaucratese, making it difficult to understand even for native Chinese speakers. I hope this post will help people navigate some of these rules. At the same time, I can only relate my own personal experience. Your own situation may be different, or the information, or may be out of date by the time you read this, so be sure to check with the relevant agencies before proceeding. (NOTE: Any inaccuracies in this post are mine alone.)

Updating Your Spousal ARC or APRC

I don’t know the exact time limit, but it would be good to go to the immigration office as soon as possible after the primary card holder becomes a citizen. We didn’t think of this since we mistakenly thought my wife’s ARC would be valid till the expiration date on the card. Fortunately, we went to immigration anyway, since we hoped to get her an APRC. As the wife of a citizen she now qualifies for one and we had hoped that this would allow her to finally work in Taiwan, something she hasn’t been able to do freely since we moved here permanently fourteen years ago!

Actually, the spouses of APRC holders have been allowed to work since the law was revised in 2017, but they must get a new work permit for each job. Because employers have to do all the paperwork for this, few are willing to go through the trouble. For a filmmaker like my wife this essentially means she is not allowed to work in her chosen profession. There are simply too few filmmakers in Taiwan who would be willing to go through all this trouble to hire international talent with limited Chinese ability. (And some of those who would are not even be able to produce the necessary paperwork!)

Also, it isn’t necessary to become a citizen for your spouse to get an APRC. The spouses of APRC holders can apply for an APRC after the primary APRC holder has had theirs for over five years. That means that even if I hadn’t become a citizen my wife would have qualified for an APRC at the end of this year, and would have gotten the associated open work permit” (AKA an Employment Services Act Article 51 work permit) at that time. It is this work permit that allows APRC holders to work freely without any extra burden for the employer. One advantage of this route is that there is no financial requirement for those getting APRCs as the spouse of an existing APRC holder.

We could have gotten her an APRC much sooner if she had NT$5,000,000 in her bank account. Then she could have applied for an APRC without having to wait for my status to change. Unfortunately, we don’t have many friends with that kind of spare change lying around their bank accounts! In any case, by the time we got around to investigating this mater it had already become possible me to consider getting dual citizenship, as discussed in my last post. When applying for an APRC as the spouse of a citizen there is a financial requirement but spouses of citizens can list their spouse’s monthly income (as long as it is more than twice minimum wage), or combined family assets, instead of just their own personal assets. More details here.

As I said, our motivation for getting her an APRC was so that she could get a work permit. It turns out that an APRC was not necessary for her to be able to work! Article 48 of the Employment Service Act states that if someone is married a national of the Republic of China with a registered permanent residence in the Republic of China and has been permitted to stay therein” (i.e. has a household registration, or hukou) they are allowed to work without an employment permit. That is, they don’t even need the open work permit” APRC holders have. If they are listed on their spouse’s hukou, they can work freely with just an ARC. The ARC she got states:「特證人工作不須申請工作許可」(“Special permit holder does not need to apply for a work permit.”)。 The only advantage of an APRC now is that she wouldn’t need to renew it every few years. (Note that with an APRC you do need a work permit, but getting it is just a formality once you have the card itself.)

Registering Your Marriage on the Hukou

Regardless of whether you are applying for an ARC or an APRC, getting listed on your spouses hukou is the first step. In order to do this the HRO expects you to have two documents that most Taiwanese have: (1) A marriage certificate. And (2) Proof of Marital Status (憑經驗證之婚姻狀況證明文件) which is a document that proves that you haven’t married anyone else while you have been married to your main partner. If you are not Taiwanese, both of these documents require some extra work, or workarounds.

In the case of the marriage certificate, this needs to be authenticated both by TECRO in your home country and by BOCA here in Taiwan. It then also needs to be translated and notarized. (You should do this translation after the BOCA authentication, not before.)

The case of the Proof of Marital Status is more complicated, since the US does not have such a document. The standard procedure for Americans seems to be to go to AIT and swear an affidavit to this effect. They have a special document for this. The one offered by the Kaohsiung branch of AIT is available online. However, in my case I never had to procure proof of marital status. I think the reason was that both my wife and I already had the same address on our A(P)RC cards, which was also the address listed on my hukou. But, to be honest, I’m not totally sure if that was the reason, since I never got a full explanation.

The important thing is that we were able to have her listed on my hukou. Because there is no official way to enter such marriages to a non ROC citizen on the hukou they enter it into the notes”「註記」section. This is sufficient to comply with the immigration law and get an A(P)RC as the spouse of a Taiwanese citizen. (The laws regarding this can be found here.) Once your marriage was listed on the hukou, you can get an ARC which states that your spouse doesn’t need a work permit to work in Taiwan.

If anyone is looking to hire an award-winning independent filmmaker, director, producer, editor, script-consultant, etc. here in Taiwan, be sure to get in touch! You can learn more about her on her official website.