I just got back last night, with 60-day extendable visitor visa in hand. And because there isn’t a very clear place that has all the info, I’ve decided to create something. Yes it’s…
Before you go…
Make sure you have a document proving your reason for being allowed in Taiwan (i.e. work contract, school acceptance letter, or letter of invitation from Taiwan National). I witnessed some poor 80-year-old man who begged and pleaded to be let in, even speaking perfectly fluent Mandarin with the agents, but was still rejected because the only thing he had to go on was that he “loved Taiwan and really wanted to live there again”. Yes, paperwork is absolutely necessary. As someone told me, kill them with lots of paperwork proving why you should be allowed back in. I brought my new work contract, the old work contract, termination letter from old contract, a copy of my degree, two recommendation letters from previous Taiwanese employers, my address in Chinese, tax statements for the previous year… you get the picture.
Take your pictures and make photocopies here in Taiwan. You will need 2 passport-sized photos, following the guidelines given by the government for ID pics. It is slightly more expensive in Hong Kong and it’s one more thing you have to worry about. The cost of 8 passport-sized pictures at a photo booth in Taiwan is NT$150. You can get them taken in Hong Kong in the MTR stations for HK$40 (about NT$165). A photocopy from the shop below the travel agency that processes the visas is HK$2 (NT$8.2) per plain A4 sheet versus what you’d pay at a 7-Eleven (NT$2).
Make sure you keep your disembarkation card from entering Taiwan in your passport. If you have gotten a new one since your last entry, make sure to bring the old one with the card attached. It will save you a lot of headache, trust me.
Make sure you have some money in HK$ before you go, just in case. The cost of the 60-day single entry visa for those with a passport from the US is HK$1120 (NT$4617). The cost of an Octopus card, the equivalent of an Easycard is HK$220 (NT$906) which can be refunded when you have finished using it, if you want to visit some places in Hong Kong. Without it, the cost for taking the MTR ranges between HK$4.50 to $HK16 (NT$19-68) per trip. The cost of the trip from Tsim Sha Tsui/Jordan (central to Kowloon where there are tons of hotels) to Admiralty (where the visa office is) is HK$8.50 without the Octopus card and HK$7.90 with it. The train ticket from the airport to Admiralty will be HK$100 (NT$413).
Meals are anywhere from HK$24 (NT$98) for a light meal at a cafe, from HK$46 (NT$190) for a fast food/chain restaurant meal, and from HK$180 (NT$742) at a sit-down restaurant. The cheapest way to do money exchange is through an ATM and next would be through your hotel if you are staying overnight. There are tons of places, including Western Union, along Nathan Road (close to Chungking Mansions if you choose to stay there) that do money exchange. All of the ones I saw will change Taiwan dollars. Just shop around for the best rate/lowest commission.
If time is not an issue, get an airline/hotel package. It is much cheaper than trying to book a hotel on your own. You might need that extra day in case things don’t work out smoothly. Avoid the Chungking Mansions unless you are seriously cash-strapped and don’t mind roaches, bedbugs, or feeling unsafe in general. There are decently-priced accommodations to be had, especially if you do a package. Accomodations for most hotels will set you back starting at HK$600 (NT$2473) a night. If you don’t have the funds or luxury of making your visa run an all-out vacation, make sure you book an early morning flight and an evening return. Also expect to pay an additional HK$200 (NT$825) for an express processing at the visa office. Your visa should be ready after 4pm if there are no problems with it.
Okay, now for getting to the visa office (figures will be in HK$ only, if mentioned above)…
You are going to go to the Admiralty MTR Station which is on both the Island Line (blue) and the Central Line (red), near the end of both lines (on the map, the bottom of the red line and the far left of the blue line). If you are going from Tsim Sha Tsui/Jordan station, you will be heading towards Shiang Wan (blue)/Central (red) stations at HK$8.50/HK$7.90. If you are coming directly from the airport on the Airport Express, you will change trains at Central, heading toward Chai Wan on the blue line for one stop (HK$100).
You will go through Exit B on your right when you exit the pay area, walk down a long hallway that ends with the MTR Shop and up the stairs to the left. You’ll exit on the left-hand side. Walk past the bus terminal for Ocean Park, keeping left. Take the first stairs going up to the Lippo Center (89 Queensway, Hong Kong). Not hard to miss…
You will walk right, past the Chiuchow Restaurant and can enter the center near the Print Shop (where you can make photocopies of your documents if you forgot to do so beforehand at HK$2 per A4 page). Take the escalators up to the first floor. There will be a Citic Bank and information desk to your left and a set of stone seats around potted plants to your right (and a set of elevators for Tower Two). Straight ahead, as you come up the escalators will be elevators. Walk past the ones facing the information kiosk (and the rock mural of a dragon flying over Chinese junks) and go to the ones that are labeled 33-45 (on the right-hand side of that little corridor of elevators). You’ll be going to the 40th floor.
When you reach the 40th floor, head to the left from the elevators (you’ll see a sign also pointing to go left for visas and passports). Push the A button on the machine next to the water cooler to get a number for queuing for the visa application. If there’s no one handing you a form, go to the information/pick-up counter to ask for one. You will pay the money, either HK$1120 for a next-day visa or HK$1320 for a same-day application, when you apply. When you pick up your visa slip, go to the first window at your specified time. It’s 11AM for those who rush applied on the previous afternoon. It’s 4PM for those who applied for either a same-day application (only in the morning) or those who applied on the previous day. Please note that while they stay open to 5pm, they only take applications until 3pm.
But wait, there’s more!
When you arrive back in Taiwan, do not go straight to the lines for immigration. You will need to go to the kiosks at the back for immigration (the one on the left, if you are facing away from the lines) to have them put in the official visa. Then take your passport and shiny new visitor visa through the lines and on your way back to your home in Taiwan.
If you are doing the one-day trip, look at spending about NT$14,500 - NT$7900 for the plane ticket, NT$826 for the MTR ticket (from the airport to Admiralty and back), NT$5442 for a 60-day extendable visitor visa with rush, NT$160 for pictures and to copy five pages (NT$215 if you do this in Hong Kong), and $100+ for a meal while waiting for visa to process (you can go to the mall past the bookstore to the right of the information counter at the Lippo Center where there’s the British chain Prêt à Manger with awesome sandwiches and salads for HK$24 to HK$42 or a Delifrance with meals for similar prices). Or you can do a little sightseeing while you wait.
I hope this helps fill the information void on this topic and helps others avoid the expensive, time-consuming (and at many times, heartbreakingly frustrating) pitfalls I had to deal with. Information, costs, and exchange rates (NT$4.1215=HK$1) are accurate as of July 14th, 2010.
Special thanks to Chris, Okami, Tommy525, jimipresley, citizen k, Maoman, housecat, Ironlady, and StuartCa for your advice and help in my original post on this topic.
ImaniOU, aka Little Miss :stinkyface: