Visas and Work Permits for Taiwan
Due to political pressure from the People's Republic of China, most countries (including the United States and Canada) do not have embassy-level relations with Taiwan, so visa applications are made through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. Minute particulars of the visa application process change frequently, but the basic procedures for the following two options are fairly standard.
To travel to Taiwan you will need a visitor visa. Two different types of visas are issued: two-week (nonextendable), and sixty-day (extendable or nonextendable). North Americans can obtain the two-week, nonextendable visa upon arrival in Taipei. All that's necessary is a passport good for at least six months beyond the length of your stay and a ticket that shows that you are planning to leave Taiwan within the two-week period. The sixty-day visas can be further categorized by whether they are "multiple entry" and by how long they are valid (from one to five years). You're not supposed to comprehend this - no one does. Your mission, however, is to get a sixty-day, extendable, five-year, multiple-entry visa.
When applying for a visa at one of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices in the Unites States or Canada we suggest saying that you are going to Taiwan to either visit or study. It is illegal to work without a permit, which you won't have yet, so if you say you are going to work, it gives the officer a chance to delay the visa. You might say you plan to stay with a friend (give a name and address) who is studying Chinese. You need to convince the officer that you have a legitimate reason for staying in Taiwan for at least two months. Even with a sixty-day visa, sometimes the officer will put a stamp in your passport saying "non-extendable" in Chinese. Be on the lookout for those. Extendable visas can be extended twice for a total of 180 days, given that you provide the authorities with a convincing story about why you want to stay in Taiwan. After two extentions, you will have to exit the country before the visa expires and then re-enter.
Bimonthly extensions are obtained from the Taipei City Police Station:
Foreigners' Service Center
Taipei City Municipal Police Department
96 Yen Ping South Road
(02) 381-7475 or (02) 381-8341
Hours: 8:40-11:40am Monday-Saturday and 1:40-4:40pm Monday-Friday
When you go to apply for a visa extension, take your passport and the name and address of someone in Taiwan (a friend, landlord, or teacher) to contact in case of an emergency. If you are studying Chinese, bring proof of your studies, because this is sometimes adequate evidence that you're not in Taiwan to exploit the job market. Ask your school - they will provide you with the necessary documents.
In order to get a visitor visa changed to a resident visa, your employer must submit your paperwork for government authorization. Once permission to work has been granted, you'll have to fly to another country in order to get the resident visa.
Resident visas are only issued after you have come to Taiwan and have some reason for staying; a work permit is one such reason, and being a student at an approved school for four months is another. Marriage to a citizen of Taiwan also qualifies a person to apply for a resident visa. These visas are usually valid for forty-eight months and permit multiple entries. If you begin your stay in Taiwan on a visitor visa and want to change it to a resident visa, you will need to make the change outside of Taiwan. Most people go to Hong Kong for this purpose because it's close. You may choose any country with a Taiwan consulate or visa office.
You are required to report to the nearest headquarters of the Foreign Affairs Police to apply for your Alien Resident Certificate within ten days of arriving in the country with your resident visa. All residents are required to have had specific vaccinations (see the section on Health Care), have health insurance, and pay taxes. Resident visas must be renewed annually. For more details, seek the advice of a teaching veteran and read the section in this book on Taiwanese taxes carefully.
All foreigners wishing to work in Taiwan are required to obtain a work permit. Generally it's a headache to get one, but fortunately for English teachers the process is fairly streamlined. Many schools get permits for their teachers. Although some teachers who've been in Taiwan for years still haven't applied for one, it is not advisable to go without. Recently, an American hostess was arrested and put in detention for working illegally.
In reviewing your application for a work permit, the government may consider your academic credentials and experience; therefore, a copy of your diploma or transcript and a resume are important. Technically, you are only allowed to work at the organization through which you obtained the permit. This provision is not consistently enforced, however, and English teachers are operating in much the same manner as they did before the new regulations.
The requirements set forth and subject to change by the Ministry of Education are listed below. Please note that Taiwan now requires work permit applicants to pass a drug test.
- Medical tests, including AIDS and hepatitis B; bring documentation if the tests are done outside of Taiwan (see the section on "Health Care" for more information)
- Drug test; bring documentation if the test is done outside Taiwan
- Contract of employment (usually supplied by employer)
- Passport from a native English-speaking country plus eight extra passport photos
- Copy of airline ticket and travel itinerary
- Copy of a college diploma (B.A. or B.S.)
In order to get a work permit you will need to have your visa status changed to that of a resident. See the resident visa section above for more information.
These helpful hints will help speed up the visa process once you arrive in Taiwan.
- Have your diploma translated and certified by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in the United States. TECC has offices in many major U.S. cities.
- Photocopy every page of your passport and then sign every photocopied page.
- If you don't want to repeat all of your medical tests in Taiwan, make sure you go to a public (county) hospital or clinic in the United States or Canada. Taiwan will not accept health checks from private hospitals. Once all of the necessary medical tests have been completed by your doctor, the form must be notarized (most hospitals have a notary on staff), and then taken to the TECC office in the U.S. or Canada for certification.