An amendment to Taiwan’s Nationality Act now allows foreign professionals and experts to become Taiwanese citizens, and naturalized Taiwanese to be issued with ID cards and Taiwanese passports, without having to renounce their original citizenship.

This is seen as a bid to stem the brain drain amid an exodus of professionals and entrepreneurs heading for China and elsewhere.

The island’s interior ministry noted that foreigners applying for Taiwanese citizenship would face less risk of becoming “stateless persons” thanks to amendments passed by the Legislative Yuan at the end of last year.

Previously, foreign nationals had to first give up their original citizenship before their applications could be considered and approved.

The financial threshold of naturalization for foreign spouses of Taiwanese citizens would also be lowered, as part of the island’s ongoing efforts to foster the recruitment and retention of top talent from around the world.

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Quincy Davis, a US athlete and a member of Taiwan’s national basketball team, shows his Taiwanese ID card and passport. Photo: Taiwan Central News Agency

The new rules apply to foreign nationals who have resided in Taiwan for at least five years and possess specified qualifications in the categories of arts and culture, economics, education, science and technology, sports and “other”, which spans a variety of individuals ranging from democracy and human rights advocates to experts in aviation and high-speed railways.

Foreigners can also hold citizenship of the ROC and their birth country if they possess skills in high-value technical disciplines.

The relaxed rules do not apply to people from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China as the naturalization process for such individuals is specified in a separate law.

Easing restrictions on dual citizenship for professionals from overseas was identified in a three-year government program called the Perfect Taiwan’s Environment for Retaining Talent project, launched in October last year.

Aimed at improving the work environment for foreign nationals, the initiative outlines other strategies like simplifying visa vetting and application procedures for foreign talent; strengthening work counseling services; and signing more double taxation avoidance agreements.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has also reportedly exhorted senior missionaries from overseas to apply for Taiwanese citizenship, during a meeting with veteran Catholic missionaries to the island.