Alternative (Substitute) Service Guidance Needed

Hey All,

I’m about to start my alternative military service soon and had a few questions regarding the whole process. Namely, do they offer an English exam at training (成功嶺) and what service units are available? I’ve also scoured the forums and other sources to do my due diligence and avoid asking anything duplicative.

A little background:

  • Born in Taiwan (1993) and moved to the US when I was 4; I have dual citizenship and lived most of my life in the US
  • Returned back to Taiwan at 11 to finish up grade school at an international school, which disqualified me for the overseas Chinese status (so I’m told)
  • Completed university in the states and have been working state-side
  • My Chinese is conversationally okay, but reading and writing is rather difficult

In doing my research, I found out there is an exam at the end of basic training (成功嶺). I’m quite nervous about it since my Chinese comprehension is low. Some friends who have done the service stated the exam dictates whether I’ll get my first choice of service unit I elect. Do they offer an English version of the exam or any assistance for individuals like me? I’m positive I’m not the only case they’ve encountered. I’ve also been told by the military office (兵役科) that basic training is only two weeks since I’m in alternative service. Is this accurate?

Furthermore, what service units do they offer and what are other people’s experiences in them? I’m rather unclear as to what is available and what to select. Some sources have told me education service is no longer an option, and I’ve been told the police, firemen, and correctional officer services are much more demanding and less preferable. Anything else I should expect for basic training (things to bring/not bring, general tips)? Based on research, seems like it’s best to just follow orders from above, be generally nice and friendly to everyone, and ask for help where needed and I’ll be able to get by without much issue.

Lastly, once I’m out of basic training, how do vacations work with alternative service? My girlfriend is wanting to visit from the US while I am in the service and I’m not sure if vacation days can be accrued. Any information is greatly appreciated!

please use Google translator or something like that, if you need.

替代役役男請假規則 (Alternative serviceman leave rule)
https://law.moj.gov.tw/LawClass/LawAll.aspx?pcode=D0040021

第 7 條
替代役役男,因特殊事故必須本人親自處理者,得視需要時數核給事假,並應擇日施以補勤。

司法院替代役役男服勤及生活管理注意事項
3.申請事假:
(1)役男須遇有「特殊事由」,且非本人無法處理者,始核給事
假。
(2)請事假得以時數或日數計算,且均應補勤或以榮譽假折抵。
(3)事假應於二星期內,由各服勤單位排定日期要求役男補勤完
竣。
(4)無法實施補勤機制者,應避免核予役男事假。

(四)放假(補休)
1.役男放假日數比照公務人員放假日數。每次累積放假(含放假
、榮譽假、補休)日數不得超過十日。
2.役男放假比照本院員工,自放假日之前一日下勤簽退後開始放
假,假期結束次日上午九時以前,至機關簽到服勤。
3.役男因公奉派於放假日執行勤務者,得於六個月內申請補休。
4.補休之時間,以實際值勤時數或天數計算。

I have been there.

Do not expect any level of English comprehension there. But I didn’t do alternative service (no dual citizenship for me to wiggle out of that one) and I spent a year and a half there.

You won’t be a policeman or anything as you’d have to get into a police university and graduate there. Same with firemen/correctional officers. But perhaps you could be helping those organizations as a part of your alternative service (sweeping the floor and all that).

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Hey db,

I’m kind of in the same boat as you as I am thinking to go back to Taiwan near the end of the year, after my child gets born, to fulfill my military service (1 year).

I was wondering if you or anyone else had some insights to your previous questions, regarding the exam if you’re unable to read/write Chinese ? As well as what kind of alternative services are available for people that can’t read/write Chinese (Hoping it’s not going to be mopping the floor all year around XD).

Cheers,

Hey flynet,

Figured I’d provide a follow-up now that I’ve actually gone through training and that this information could be useful for others.

Do they offer an English version of the exam or any assistance for individuals like me?
There were no English versions of any exams I took during training (bootcamp and professional training for alternative service). I don’t think they’ll offer an English exam ever in the future either. However, they do ask your Chinese proficiency during training. Make sure to let the people in charge know from day one that you have a language barrier and work with them directly. When I had to take the exams, they took all the non-Chinese speakers to a separate room where they had other English speaking servicemen attempt to translate the questions. Safe to say, the questions were poorly translated due to the translators being non-native English speakers and the difficulty in translating the material being tested. As for the material that is tested, it’s mostly covered during lectures you sit through in basic training (all in Chinese unfortunately). A lot of people in my training class had printouts of mock exams from prior training classes; I’m sure one could find it if they knew what to search in Chinese.

On duration of basic training:
Apparently this is a moving target depending on whether the government decides to shift towards a new program, or for whatever reason. The training classes prior had 14 days of training from what I heard. My training class was 18 days long if I recall correctly.

What service units do they offer and what are other people’s experiences in them?
The service units that are available really depends on which government entities/service agencies are in need of headcount at that point in time. It’s all luck of the draw to see what they are offering during your time at bootcamp. Some agencies that were available for me at that time were various police departments, firemen, various social work type roles, immigration officer type roles, veterans affairs roles, and serving at the bootcamp site. I’m sure I’m missing a few others. As for how you choose your service, it’s similar to a job fair and takes place during your basic training. They base priority of selection off of highest level of education and your area of study for specific service agencies, e.g. individuals with PhDs will get first pick and/or if you studied medicine. The requirements for each agency are provided during your time at training. I should also mention that if you have an education from overseas (outside of Taiwan), you’re supposed to get it verified first by some government agency. I learned the hard way that the copy of my diploma wouldn’t be accepted since I didn’t get some stamp of approval. However, some service agencies don’t even care to look at your education when selecting people. Some of these agencies need people and they’re willing to just take anyone. The exam you take during basic training and in professional training will then determine your priority for choice of location. Some agencies abide by this, while others have their own rules and determine amongst themselves who will go where.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

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What service unit did you end up with?

Traffic police - the nature of the work really just depends on what they want you to do, so a lot of what they teach you in the lectures about what each service unit will be doing on a day to day is kind of inaccurate.

I’m pretty much in an office setting everyday just helping out where I can, kind of like an office admin. As Taiwan_Luthiers stated in a comment above, you won’t be allowed to do any actual work for these agencies since you aren’t licensed/qualified. You’ll only be assisting where they need help or doing odd jobs for them, such as maintaining a clean working space or filing papers away. All depends on where you get assigned and what they want you to be doing.

Thanks a lot for all the feedback !

I’m still a bit anxious concerning the classes being in Chinese. I’ve seen in other threads that you could ask your classmates for help but I think it would probably be insufficient to grasp all the notions necessary to pass the exam (unless they also have English on their slides)? Do you have any advice regarding this ? Or should I start doing some HSK lessons lol.

I should also mention that if you have an education from overseas (outside of Taiwan), you’re supposed to get it verified first by some government agency

Um, do you know what kind of government agency does that, like if it can be done in Taiwan ? I’ve had my Master’s degree in France quite some years ago. And I can’t imagine having to go there again to certify it especially during a pandemic…

When assisting the traffic police, are you having a lot moments where you absolutely have no assignments ? If those times happen, are you allowed to bring a book or it’s more like they want you to stay on standby for other assignments ?

Thanks again for your time !

I forgot to precise, I had my diploma certified by WES 2-3 years ago when I was applying for immigration in Canada. Do they accept international certification bodies like the WES or they only recognize their own certifications ?

No English on the slides and it’s all in Chinese. To be honest, no one really pays attention to the classes anyway and many people sleep through it. You’ll be pretty exhausted from the training schedule. I also wouldn’t worry too much about the exam. The exam is purely for priority to pick your location. Some agencies don’t even care about your scores. That was what happened in my case, everything was predetermined and you could elect your location when choosing your agency. I know some other agencies were very competitive though, such as the social work roles.

As for getting your education verified, it’s done by the Taiwan government. Be sure to bring your diploma with you. A copy of it will not suffice. That was another reason why I wouldn’t have been able to verify my education since I left mine in the U.S. I wish I had more info on this, but that is the extent of my knowledge. Depending on your circumstance, I also know that individuals who are close to being illiterate in Chinese and have also lived overseas for pretty much their entire lives will be eligible for a special service agency. Unfortunately, I don’t have much info on that either since I learned of it while I was in training, and too late.

When assisting the traffic police, are you having a lot moments where you absolutely have no assignments ? If those times happen, are you allowed to bring a book or it’s more like they want you to stay on standby for other assignments ?

Bring all the books my friend. I have a lot of free time throughout the day and evenings are pretty much yours. Again, all depends on the agency you end up in. I’ve been told that smaller cities and the outer islands are generally more chill since there’s just generally less to do. These locations are usually less desirable since it’s considered “far” from home for many locals. If you’re fine with traveling a little to get back home, then it’s not that bad of a tradeoff. Taiwan is only so big geographically to begin with.

For my situation, I definitely got lucky and actually have tons of time. I’m able to be on my laptop quite a bit throughout the day. It’s like working a regular job and I get off at 5pm. They make us do a nightly roll call and that’s it. I would definitely make the best of your free time and be productive.

Some agencies don’t even care about your scores. That was what happened in my case, everything was predetermined and you could elect your location when choosing your agency.`

I think at one time, when somebody in Taiwan called for me, they said that they usually make people go to the agencies close to their household registration address. I am not sure if this is a general thing or if it just applies for males born before 1994 (who do 1 year alternative service).

For my situation, I definitely got lucky and actually have tons of time. I’m able to be on my laptop quite a bit throughout the day. It’s like working a regular job and I get off at 5pm. They make us do a nightly roll call and that’s it. I would definitely make the best of your free time and be productive.

That’s nice to hear about that. I was definitely worried that it would be a waste of time. Do they also allow you to use your phone or is it locked away like during the bootcamp ?

I think if you’re enlisting in alternative service due to familial reasons, they will place you close to where you’re registered and allow you to return home every night. Given that you’re expecting a kid, you should fall into that category. Definitely ask around and try to get more info though.

You’ll have full access to your phone. Once you’re assigned to your service unit, it’s pretty much back to normal life. I’ve heard there are restrictions for people who end up serving in correctional facilities though, but can’t verify that. It was a super unpopular agency when we were choosing.

I’m sorry to bother you again, I’ve heard recently from my relative in Taiwan that , this year, military service is being refused to people that come from foreign countries due to covid-19. Do you have any insight on that ? I’m not sure what I am supposed to do if I resign my job this year and come to Taiwan just to wait undefinedly (my passport is due to expire soon). Kind of have a family to feed lol