Any ideas on how to do freelance work and still be able to stay in the country (outside of taking classes or getting married)?

I’m a Chinese-English translator working for a translation company right now, and would really like to branch out on my own in a while (the money and times are MUCH better). The only problem with freelancing is I would not be able to get a work permit and thus would have no way of staying in the country (I don’t want to do monthly vacations like most teachers).
I have heard I could open my own business, but don’t really wish to spend the $60,000 in lawyer fees and $5 million in investment from overseas.

I find it an odd situation (not just in Taiwan; I think this is an issue that very few countries have thought of in this era of globalization) – US companies (or from any country) can hire me as a freelancer over the internet (or through any other method) no matter where I am. Taiwanese companies can hire me as a freelance if I’m in the US. However, if I am hired by a Taiwanese company to do the same job while I’m in Taiwan, it’s suddenly illegal…? Even if it is not illegal per se, I can still not stay in the country longer that a month or two to put that money I make back into the local economy. If I’m going to make money from Taiwanese companies, it makes sense to them for me to spend it here! Yet, while I’m in Taiwan, most of the money I make goes back into the local economoy… Hmmm. Do I have a handle on this? Even if it is not illegal, I still

I greatly enjoy living here and enjoy making an actual contribution to the society (through my works, taxes, etc.,). So, to avoid making this more of a novel than it already is… does anyone know of any way to do freelancing while staying in the country? (legally, that is! )

Thanks for any help you can give.

Why not have the Translation Company apply for a Work Permit for you? The first step is to determine under which government department the Translation Company is registered, such as Ministry of Economics or whatever. Then your employer would apply through that agency.

If you have a Work Permit, you can get a Work Visa based on that. Such arrangements are usually renewed annually, to my understanding.


Thanks for the reply. Actually, I have a work permit right now. I’m hoping in the next year or two to be able to go completely freelance; working with multiple persons/companies from all over the world. Because of this issue, I might have to be stuck working at one company full-time, unless I find a better way.

I think Little Iron’s way of looking at this problem is a bit confusing.

Shouldn’t you look at the problem like this?

You need a work permit first because you do not normally have the ‘right of stay’ in Taiwan (or a country which is not your normal place of residence).

Work permits are granted by the govt because there is insufficient suitably qualified workers within Taiwan with the the right of stay (ie Taiwanese citizens or PRs); and in order to facilitate business, trade etc. foreigners are given this permission to stay with their work permits,to take up the “extra” work.

But in times of slack, or economic downturn like now where there is presumably an abundance of suitably qualified Taiwanese nationals and few available jobs for them, it would be unreasonable of the govt to continue issuing work permits for work that local taiwanese workers can easily take up.

So willingness to hire by Taiwanese firms and the right to offer up one’s services to these firms is not being challenged here. It is the “right to stay” which is in question.

When Taiwanese firms hire your services abroad, and the work is to be conducted wholly outside of Taiwan, the ‘right of stay’ rule is not challlenged, though your offer of services is in direct competition with similar services being offered by local taiwanese labour.

Mainland China provides really competitive translation services that will soon be ‘global’ I reckon. In time it would be like the export of programming services from Bangalore, India. China has so many people it is just going to “suck up” every single ‘exportable’ labour intensive job from the whole world. I enquire once and found that they did better English to Thai translation than in Thailand.



I think you grasped what I was (trying to) say. I had two points to my message: One was a simple gripe about this situation where I can compete with Taiwanese and spend my money (i.e., live) elsewhere much easier than compete with Taiwanese and spend my money here - just pointing out a new problem of globalization (again, not limited to Taiwan). (Fortunately, there is always a huge demand for native English speaking translators, so I think I’m still safe for a few years yet…I hope!)

The other point was just trying to find out if there is any way to go freelance (i.e. say in the country, since I’m going to be making money for Taiwanese companies anyways). Of course the Taiwanese government offers the right to work as they see fit - no country is different.
Either way, after a long time of looking into it, I’m starting to get the distinct impression that there’s no way to do this (outside of utilizing a semi-legal loophole…)

Thanks for your (and any future) responses.

Some of the points which have been raised in this topic concern a government’s right to regulate foreigner’s “right to stay” inside the country. This is certainly true, any government undoubtedly has a right to make such regulations.

However, it should also be remembered that for Taiwanese living in western countries, most of them gain citizenship (while retaining ROC citizenship) after five years or less.

Unfortunately, the reverse is not true in Taiwan, i.e. there are foreigners who have been here 35, 40, 45 or more years and do not have citizenship rights. Their work rights (and many other rights) are restricted. These restrictions are not relaxed in any way just because they have been legally resident here for decades.

Hence oftentimes I feel that some newcomers to Taiwan and/or the ORIENTED website must become aware that when foreigners complain here about the myriad restrictions on their activities, this is a valid complaint, and it is extremely complicated by the fact that there is currently no “light at the end of the tunnel”. There is no forseeable point in the future at which the foreigner will attain full rights.

Many foreigners find this aspect of the legal environment not only extremely frustrating, but also in direct violation of the accepted practice of “international reciprocity”, and I agree with them.

I also continue to stress that it will take some serious judicial challenges before we can ever expect to see this situation changed. Remember “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

I have heard I could open my own business, but don't really wish to spend the $60,000 in lawyer fees and $5 million in investment from overseas. (LittleIron)

Have you ever considered what you could/would do with $5 million taiwan dollars or about $1.2 million RenMinBi in China?

It is actually not that much and even if you don’t have the whole lump sum yourself; 2 or maybe 3 ‘right’ persons with a common idea would easily get this much if not more.

I am just thinking, what would this same amount and idea ‘buy’ on the Mainland instead of Taiwan?

We all know that things are a lot cheaper in China. You could live quite comfortably on a Taiwan ‘salary’ and you wouldn’t need to pay your staff the same ‘Taiwan’ salary.

I think there are some legal hurdles with China ‘investments’ which I am just now begining to try to understand.

China’s entry into WTO next month means that China will attract a lot more investments and trade than it has already. The future of Taiwan is a lot less certain and more temperamental .

Theoretically there is no reason why you can’t continue servicing the same companies as you do currently as a ‘translator’ but from your own company in China.

With more than one person working as translator etc., you could also branch out to other profitable businesses.

What China provides more than anythingelse for most investors/entrepreneurs is I think a way to start ‘small’.

The traditional way of thinking of China as a communist state and therefore risky is I think strongly out of date.

I must return to this subject…

So is there a good resource somewhere - “how can a non-chinese foreigner live and work in China” ???