A person uses a mobile phone while standing in front of the Hong Kong skyline on Jan. 29, 2020. Photo: Reuters

By Chen Yu-fu and Liu Tzu-hsuan / Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fewer Hong Kongers were granted resident status in Taiwan this year as the government increased scrutiny of applicants using loopholes in the investment immigration scheme to gain residency without making investments.

An increasing number of Hong Kongers emigrated after the introduction of Hong Kong's National Security Law in 2020, and many chose Taiwan as a destination.

The National Immigration Agency's (NIA) statistics show that a record 11,173 Hong Kongers received resident status, and 1,685 received permanent resident cards last year.

However, from January to October this year, 7,211 and 1,127 Hong Kongers received resident and permanent resident status respectively, down by 404 and 289 respectively compared with the same period last year, the statistics show.

An agency official on Sunday said on condition of anonymity that NIA officials found during immigration interviews that some applicants were unable to explain their motivation for investing in Taiwan or demonstrate any results from their ventures.

Investigations showed that some import and export documents used in such applications were falsified, their companies had no turnover or no employees were hired, the person said.

It became evident that immigration firms were helping their clients establish several companies registered at one address, with the firms purchasing goods from each other to create transaction records for immigration reviews, the person said.

The transactions were sometimes for family expenses such as daily goods or Costco orders, which were put on a company's balance sheet, the source said.

The investment immigration scheme requires foreigners to invest at least NT$6 million (US$197,012) in a company, guarantee its operation for at least three years and hire at least two Taiwanese employees. After one year, the applicant is eligible to apply for .

Suspicious investments were put under NIA observation for one year, and residency was rescinded for investments found to be for non-business activity, the person said.

Many immigration firms made guarantees of success to potential applicants to attract their business, the source said.

When clients asked why their applications were denied, these firms would blame vague government review criteria, the official said.

Asked whether the review process for Hong Kongers is especially strict, the official said that the NT$6 million threshold is one of the lowest in the world, and should not be considered strict for those who want to legitimately invest, the official said, adding that The government's Hong Kong support policy has not changed.

Hong Kongers interested in immigrating through the investment scheme can contact the Taiwan-Hong Kong Service and Exchange Office for advice and instruction, the person said.

The NIA should evaluate such firms to prioritize applications from reputable immigration agents, the official added.

News source: TAIPEI TIMES