I’m writing this as a way to pass on any useful experience and information I might have gleaned over the last few weeks. As most of you probably know, the official information regarding visas/work permits/ARCs and whatnot is pretty confusing. Honestly, I found the most accurate info about this whole process on this forum. So, as of Feb 1, 2016, here is what I know about going from a visa exempt entry, to getting full legal working/resident status as a foreigner in Taiwan.
I’m an American. I’ve been teaching in Bangkok for the past 2.5 years. Interviewed for a university lecturer position in Taipei, ended up getting the job, but the start date wasn’t until February 15th. I arrived in Taipei on January 5th with the visa exempt entry. I bought a round trip ticket just to be sure there wouldn’t be any hassle about the return trip.
Documents and Costs:
The first thing I had to do was a mountain of Chinese language paperwork for the university. I recommend having a Taiwanese friend translate these for you, as I was in completely over my head as a beginning learner. Anyhow, I needed a stamped letter of resignation from my previous employer in Bangkok stating start and end dates. I needed all original transcripts of BA/MA degrees and diplomas. These documents also had to be authenticated. For the MA authentication I had to go to the BOCA and pay, I believe, $400. I also had to pay US $20 for the National Student Clearinghouse to verify the degree. For the transcripts, I had to get new originals sent directly in an unsealed envelope from the university in San Francisco. If you are working as a lecturer, you will also need a lecturer’s certificate in Taiwan. Apparently this document will allow you to teach at any university, should you decide to change jobs later on.
Additionally, you need to print three (3) copies of your MA/Ph.D dissertation and have them professionally bound. Now this was a problem for me because my personal copy did not contain the original signatures of my thesis advisors. So, I had to contact the university back home and get scanned copies of the original signatures and then print and bind those three copies (note: this is more than I ever had to do for the actual MA degree). Oh, and you will need to translate your MA/Ph.D dissertation abstract into Chinese (again, a Taiwanese professor-friend will be very useful at this point…). I also recommend printing a copy of your statement of teaching philosophy, because you will be asked to write a autobiography about your academic/professional achievements and related information. I did mine in English. Lastly, you will need to get a stamp made with your Chinese name and a stamp for your English name. I guess this is for when you open a bank account. I also had to stamp some paperwork for the university–apparently a signature was not enough.
The next step was figuring out how to go from exempt entry visa to the ARC. There was a ton of conflicting information about this. It appears as though university lecturers/professors are treated as “white collar” workers and don’t need to do the health check (you can take solace in the fact this will save you a little bit of money). So, last week I visited BOCA, filled out the resident visa online application, printed it out, and took a copy of my work permit, along with passport, etc. NOTE: A work permit is not a Certificate of Employment (I learned this only later…). I was surprised–and quite happy-- to learn that I could go directly from the exempt visa to this resident visa without having to leave the country. I believe I paid $6080 for this “resident visa” and it took about 4 working days to process.
Today, I went to BOCA to pick up the resident visa. It turns out that I was only given a visitor visa. So, I’m not quite sure what happened. I’m also not sure if I overpaid then, since I’m pretty sure a visitor visa shouldn’t cost $6000.
Anyhow, the next step was to get my ARC–because then I can open a bank account. So, I waited for about 30 minutes at the NIA only to be told that I was missing a Certificate of Employment (I only had a work permit–honestly I didn’t know what it was since it was all in Chinese). And, I also needed to bring in a copy of my apartment rental contract to prove my resident status. I didn’t know about that either. Then, I was told that since I only had a visitor visa, I had to pay an extra $2,200 when applying for my ARC–I guess that’s the extra cost of an “implied” resident visa. Anyhow, I need to return again with the Certificate of Employment, the rental contract, and $3200. All in all, it sounds like I’ve paid a bit more than I should have. I wonder if I was charged for a resident visa but only given a visitor visa? I’m considering making the trip back to BOCA and showing them my receipt and my visitor visa. Does anyone have any information about this?
Conclusion: Yes, you can enter on a exempt visa and change it WITHOUT leaving the country. You will first need to change your visa to a visitor visa, and then you can apply for the ARC with your visitor visa. However, I’m not sure if I’m having to pay more because of this. So far, I would say budget about 10,000-13,000 for the whole process, and give yourself at least 1 month to do all the paperwork.
Hope this helps anyone interested in working in Taiwan.