Are you planning to invest in Taiwan? Then forget it

I know that this message might be strange in this forum, but it has all to do with it.

My company, based in EU decided to open branch offices worldwide, so they asked theyr senior employes (including me) who was interested in moving abroad. As I had allways wanted to move to Japan for a period (for soul enrichment), I didn’t mind getting the office in Taiwan. As my company is in the IT business, we decided to come here (invited from our suppliers) during Computex 05. So in end of May I came to Taipei to find a suitable apartment (which I found in the day I arrived, tx god) and to prepare all the rest of things (getting an office, lawyer, accountant…). After consulting with some people, we went to the Taiwan Trade Association (Taitra) to rent an office in WTC (Taipei 101 was impossible for us, as their minimum space was 400 sqm). We also set up meetings and got everything done with PwC. So I went back to Europe with my job done, waiting for September to come back, to start working.

Arrival in September, and start of life in Taiwan. I had allready got someone to work with me, in the company, and that person stayed in our company for 2 months in July/August. So when we arrived here, we immediatly started to put everything working.

Error number 1 - Trusting government people - When we arrived at WTC to see our office (6 months prepaid), we asked about the papers to be able to open the company. For our surprise, no company can be registrated in those premises, and all that are there have their official address somewhere else. That was what the lady from Taitra also recommended us to do, and I replied to her - “but isn’t it illegal”, and she says “yes, but we will give you a letter explaining the case”… my heart had a puncture in that moment - WHERE THE HELL AM I??? I couldn’t believe that a government official just had told me such thing. We immediatly asked to review our contract and that they should give us the money back. I had to send a letter complaining to the director of Taitra. They agreed in sending us the money back, 2 weeks later.

Error number 2 - Getting the huge companies to help you - As we went to PwC, we asked them why we were not advised of the impossibility of establishing our company in WTC, they replied to us - “You didn’t ask…” - How the hell was I supposed to know that??? In the meetings we had in June I was not advised on this, and they even told me, as we only wanted to open a representative office (which was a smart move, considering it would be very fast to open), that we could find everywhere a virtual office solution for that and enjoy the premises of WTC to work. I agreeded with the first part (we did only wanted to open with a rep office in the beggining, but I allways let it clear that we would open the branch in 2006. For them, 2006 must start in October or something, because they were thinking it would take a year to open a branch. Our idea was to settle for 2005 as a rep office, and in beggining 2006 to open the branch. They never told us we could not upgrade, so everything was in the mist in there. In September, they started putting the costs open to us - only to take care of my VISA they asked me 3000 USD… Then we started reading websites, and in the investment website is stated that the legal representative of a investment company (as in Branch Office) can have an investment visa. So we thought that 3000 USD for nothing was a little bit too much. So we decided not to go with them. Also. an accountancy who tells you - “you should have asked” makes me creeps.

Then we went to a very nice HK company who has a full floor in Taipei 101, and we were very well treated and decided to stick in there, so my branch office is in Taipei 101, as my boss wanted.

After asking around other branch offices of European companies, we ended up with a very good accountant who is doing a wonderfull job. Up to this point, is the only good TW company we came to work with.

Error number 3 - Trusting information from MOEA - Investment Commission - http://www.moeaic.gov.tw/system_external/ctlr?PRO=FAQLoad&lang=1&id=243 - As you read this, and as I am in fact the juridical person of the foreign investment company, you can see that you can apply directly for the ARC. They forget to mention that a Branch Manager does not seem to be in that list, although, he is a director, supervisor, representative and juridical person of the company. After being in the Taipei Police HQ with the “approval letter from the central competent authority”, which in our case is the branch license, we were told that I have to apply to a resident visa. I started seing my life running back… So we went to the BOCA to ask for it. They accepted all the papers, and, 1 week later, we called to ask about it. They said that they rejected because I didn’t have a work permit. I continued seing my life running back. Then we went to the BOLA (labour affairs), and applied for it, giving all the papers except one - the contract, which the manager (me) should have given to me. And so my work permit was refused, because I didn’t sign a contract to myself (as I think this must be the most illegal thing a company can do) and also, because in TW, a Manager has to have a University Degree (I don’t have, never needed to, and I will not at this time of my life go get one). My qualifications are good enough for my company to send me and 5.000.000 NTD to this country (10 years experience in the IT biz, fluent in 4 languages (english, french, portuguese and spanish, can also speak italian, but not fluently)) but they are not good enough to be a manager for the BOLA. Might I add that the Ministry of Economic Affairs approved me also as branch manager. More importantly, they told me to get married with a Taiwanese Girl!!! So I, a Branch Manager, am now considered as an imported Spouse??? Should I marry only based on interest???

So I stand here, I’m not quitting now (we are sending a formal letter to the responsable legislator), but if the situation continues, I will be forced to move this company to HK, firing the person who was working with me. Also, might I say that we just did one deal with a TW company worth more than 1.000.000 NTD, and that our prospects for next year are of a turnover of 20.000.000 USD, all in purchase in TW. Now, we are planning on taking this value to invest in HK companies.

I’m not putting this info here as complaining, just an advise to anyone thinking on investing in TW.

Great rant Mr B. I think you’re going to fit in here just fine!

Getting started in Taiwan is a f**ker. There are lots of rules on the books, but selectively enforced and often just ignored. I don’t envy you at all trying to establish a company office here. Make sure you work the foreigner network to overcome some of your hassles - ECCT is as good a place as any to start if you are European. And then there’s drinking. That seems to work for me… :wink:

This is not rant, it is a personal account of what happened to me. I imagine that someone who is appointed by a company to go elsewhere should be allowed (as he has not been hired for so) to move here, no? They tell me that they want to protect the taiwanese people, but sincerely, this is completelly overboard. No taiwanese can do my job, as no taiwanese is a senior member of my company, period.

Mr. Boogie -
Welcome to the world of 'Business in/on Taiwan.

Doing business with Taiwan and doing business on Taiwan are two completely seperate entities.

Never trust anything you are told. Especially coming from an “Official Gov’t” employee. Always have a plan #2 ready.

If someone tells you they can’t do something - go to someone else. All it means is that a) they don’t want to do it b) they don’t know how to do it or c) they think they might get in trouble if they do it.

In/on Taiwan, there are no laws, only suggestions.

Contracts are like roadmaps. They give a general idea but the roads can change without your knowing it.

Smile a lot and keep asking. Eventually somebody will help you get things done. Even if its just to make you go away.
Always expect that what they did for you is wrong.

Something I’ve learned:
Doing business with Taiwan companies while I lived in the USA was much easier. Now that I live on the island it is much more complicated. Utterly amazing to me.

In spite of all this, I have also made contacts and business relationships with some very fine, honorable and honest companies. All of these echo the frustrations recounted here.

1 Like

Now they called me from the MoFA and asked me : “How can we know your investment is good for Taiwan???” - My reply - “buying 20.000.000USD a year is a bad investment for Taiwan?”

as has been said - head to www.ecct.com.tw - and talk to them. it is their job to help euro companies with taiwan activities OR go to the trade office of the home country of your company.

[quote=“TainanCowboy”]Mr. Boogie -
Welcome to the world of 'Business in/on Taiwan.

Doing business with Taiwan and doing business on Taiwan are two completely separate entities.[/quote]

Man, they should paint this in big letters on that wall beside the (unbelievably long-WTF is up with that?) moving sidewalk at CKS…they should make it the new national anthem…put it on the flag, maybe.
At my office, at least twice a year we have to deal with grown men undergoing extended months-long emotional breakdowns as they slowly discover this harsh truth.

Absolutely.
But try telling someone this beforehand, go on, try, I dare you…g’ahead, I’ll wait.

I called them, waiting for reply. Have to see how they can help me.

I also took the liberty of checking out HK investment policy, and, man, I should have move there first… I’m so depressed that I wanted to come to this damn island.

[quote=“the chief”][quote=“TainanCowboy”]Mr. Boogie -
Welcome to the world of 'Business in/on Taiwan.
Doing business with Taiwan and doing business on Taiwan are two completely separate entities.[/quote]
Man, they should paint this in big letters on that wall beside the (unbelievably long-WTF is up with that?) moving sidewalk at CKS…they should make it the new national anthem…put it on the flag, maybe.
At my office, at least twice a year we have to deal with grown men undergoing extended months-long emotional breakdowns as they slowly discover this harsh truth.

Absolutely.
But try telling someone this beforehand, go on, try, I dare you…g’ahead, I’ll wait.[/quote]
The Chief -
Re:These 2 points - What are your opinions on these. I did business with Taiwanese companies for 10 or so years before moving here. It baffles me to now live here and encounter the…how should I say…ignorant f**k-ups that occur.
What are your thoughts/opinions?

I have actually advised a client to do his Taiwanese business thru his office (remotely affiliated with his company - more like an occasional business partner) in Singapore rather than establishing an office on Taiwan for his needs.
They were confounded but it worked out better for them. Less licensing and gov’tal interference. Also less shifting about on contract details it seems.

Just ask Ilary, he knows all about it … dealing with the government offices …

just got word from ecct, and the guy over there also has no clue about my problem. He asked me to send all the info to try to push the MoEA and the Investment commission, so I’m off to write another lenghty report.

It is funny to know that even at places like the Investment Commission, they are completly clueless about their own laws on this matter. :fume:

[quote=“TainanCowboy”][quote=“the chief”][quote=“TainanCowboy”]Mr. Boogie -
Welcome to the world of 'Business in/on Taiwan.
Doing business with Taiwan and doing business on Taiwan are two completely separate entities.[/quote]
Man, they should paint this in big letters on that wall beside the (unbelievably long-WTF is up with that?) moving sidewalk at CKS…they should make it the new national anthem…put it on the flag, maybe.
At my office, at least twice a year we have to deal with grown men undergoing extended months-long emotional breakdowns as they slowly discover this harsh truth.

Absolutely.
But try telling someone this beforehand, go on, try, I dare you…g’ahead, I’ll wait.[/quote]
The Chief -
Re:These 2 points - What are your opinions on these. I did business with Taiwanese companies for 10 or so years before moving here. It baffles me to now live here and encounter the…how should I say…ignorant f**k-ups that occur.
What are your thoughts/opinions?

I have actually advised a client to do his Taiwanese business through his office (remotely affiliated with his company - more like an occasional business partner) in Singapore rather than establishing an office on Taiwan for his needs.
They were confounded but it worked out better for them. Less licensing and gov’tal interference. Also less shifting about on contract details it seems.[/quote]

Brother, if I could answer that, the next week at Carno’s would be on me…
I’ll get back to you on this after some consideration.
This clearly belongs in the How TF Does This Work? file…

We have got the contact of the assistant of the legislator behind the Foreign Affairs or something like that and he said that he would try to help us. He is completelly shocked with my story and he will try to make something.

Me and my fiancee also thought of inviting those ppl from the foreign affairs to join this forum to see what is the reality in Taiwan, and for us forumosans to be able to get better information than the one we can get from shitty government people. We’ll do our best to make these influent people join us.

[quote=“the chief”][quote=“TainanCowboy”]Mr. Boogie -
Welcome to the world of 'Business in/on Taiwan.

Doing business with Taiwan and doing business on Taiwan are two completely separate entities.[/quote]

Man, they should paint this in big letters on that wall beside the (unbelievably long-WTF is up with that?) moving sidewalk at CKS…they should make it the new national anthem…put it on the flag, maybe.
At my office, at least twice a year we have to deal with grown men undergoing extended months-long emotional breakdowns as they slowly discover this harsh truth.

Absolutely.
But try telling someone this beforehand, go on, try, I dare you…g’ahead, I’ll wait.[/quote]

Nice post. People should take the chief’s words to heart.

We’ll be speaking with a MOEA guy this week on a number of issues. I can start with this as this person is part of the MOEA that is supposed to be assisting foreign companies investing in Taiwan.

Certainly, I think we can all agree that one of the most confounding things about dealing with ANY level of government here is the double whammy of most foreigner-pertinent rules and regs, beyond the most commonly applied English Teacher/Technical Writer area,

  1. being obscure and rarely dealt with, AND spread across multiple agencies
    and
  2. having few or none of the agencies aware of the associated agencies’ responsibilities and their inter-applicability
    One stellar example of this was the Gawd-awful period between the time when the Labour Council (or whatever they’re called) was offering application for Personal Work Permit to holders of “Marriage Visas” and the time when they just binned it and made it automatic.
    On three separate occasions, I had people at the Main MOFA Police station adamantly insist that there was NO WAY it was possible to work on a Marriage Visa (or whatever it’s called), while I actually had an application at home.
    One government, a million or so systems…

OK, here is one rule of the thumb for anyone having trouble with VISA and work permit - try to get in touch with the legislator responsible for this area (I will ask my fiancee all the details about this). This is their job, but they told us that almost no one asks them for help. I did, and got all my problems resolved - tomorrow I will get my work permit (after doing a fony letter of appointment from my company to tell what is my sallary, my responsability and duration of mission) and I got everything going well.
As soon as I have details I will post them here or create a new topic to be sticked…

Hi :slight_smile:

I just finished moving my business to Taiwan and fount it awfully frustrating - sadly, as you say, mainly due to complete and utter miscommunication between government offices and myself. To be fair, MOEA have been consistently splendid with me although the same could not be said for the nutjobs at MOFA.

The UK office of MOEA have asked me to give them a detailed account of the failures that made investment such a pain in the backside. I would be interested to get in touch with you; a) to hear your story and b) perhaps offer you some help on your way.

I’m actually just about to post a detailed guide on how to set up a rep. office in Taiwan (the real version, as opposed to the laughable MOEA flowcharts). Most of the information also applies to branch offices.

[quote=“mr_boogie”]I know that this message might be strange in this forum, but it has all to do with it.
[/quote]

PS: the only CPA I would trust not to make a dog’s dinner of your applications is Forumosa’s very own ML McLean.

As for all the other CPAs in Taiwan, I would like to see them all strapped to the top of a 1,000ft pole and only let down for new year. ‘You never asked’ roughly translates to ‘I’ve never actually done this before and I’m winging it as we go’. I decided it was time to fire my old ‘specialist’ CPA when he started asking ME questions about Taiwan immigration law.

Actually, I opened a Branch office, not a rep office…
Anyway, the work permit is coming to my place so all I have to do now, is go barg again at those c*nts of BOCA.