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Regulations for foreign residents over age 20 to be relaxed

TAIPEI -- In a major development for foreign families living in Taiwan, the government plans to do away with the long-standing system that leaves even foreign nationals born and raised in the country unable to legally reside after age 20.

The changes announced Thursday by the Ministry of the Interior will mean different things to people with different situations, but in general long-term residents of Taiwan will be allowed to extend their stay up to twice by a period of three years each time.

The new regulations, set to take effect “in the near term,” will apply to foreign nationals born in Taiwan who have legally resided in the country for at least 183 days each year for 10 years, as well as foreign nationals born abroad who have legally resided in Taiwan for at least 270 days each year, also for 10 years.

Also covered are foreign nationals who began legally residing in Taiwan before age 16 and have stayed in the country for at least 270 days each year since — a category that includes German-Polish national Krystyna Jensen.

Jensen has been in Taiwan since her family moved to the country 15 years ago, but she has had to face the possibility of not being allowed to stay in the country she considers her home after graduating this summer from National Taiwan University of the Arts, which sponsors her current Alien Residence Card.

In a post on her Facebook fan page, the dance student who first petitioned immigration authorities for change expressed optimism and relief.

“Even though I haven't had a chance to ask about the details, and I don't know if I can get permanent residency or just extend my residency, at least we're making progress,” she wrote in Chinese.

“Thank you to every Taiwanese person. Long live democracy.”

The changes announced Thursday also includes a grace period of six months for foreign students graduating from local universities and for white-collar foreign workers finishing a work contract.

The interior ministry's statement emphasized, however, that foreign nationals will still have to leave the country if unable to secure a job within that time.

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