Getting a university teaching job in Taipei for the utterly confused: documents, costs, and the whole visa process

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.

Background:

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.

Travis

Great post–thanks for sharing all the details.

What you described is pretty much similar to what I experienced more than a decade ago. The only noticeable improvement is the elimination of the health check (though blue collar workers, who earn less than we do, still need to do this…) And regarding the obnoxious need to go through an expensive visitor visa en route to a working visa–yes I vividly remember shelling out what seemed to be too much money for this clearly superfluous step. I’m sorry to hear that this is still in place.

As I’ve been dealing with my lovely university’s bureaucracy in other forms lately, I can’t help but feel a strong culture of distrust. I can only imagine the sorts of fraud or other shenanigans that must have led to this convoluted process of corroborating documents: fake degrees, fake publications… perhaps not that surprising given what we know about fake cooking oil and the fake foods that are around.

To the OP: I want to say I applaud your determination and your ability to get this done! In my case, the key was to keep my eye on the ball, the prize at the end, and not let any of these many steps get in the way.

Best of luck with your time in Taiwan!

Guy

I agree: I felt like there was definitely a “guilty until proven innocent” attitude regarding degrees and past job experience.

I also feel like quite a burden on the 1-2 other colleagues who have been kind enough to volunteer to explain things to me and help answer the many questions I have.

It’s still not over with the whole process. I still need to get my ARC and open a bank account. Today I received my official Chinese contract, which I hope will satisfy the ARC’s requirement of a Certificate of Employment. BOCA also kind of screwed me because they gave me a visitor visa even though I asked for a resident visa. I officially started working on the 1st of February, so technically speaking, I am working illegally under a visitor visa (though through no fault of my own). We’ll see if I can manage to get an ARC/bank account sorted out before the first day of class on Feb 15. The Chinese New Year holiday is going to make it tough to do any administrative stuff…

Anyhow, if anyone else is in a similar boat or has any questions about the whole employment process, I’d be happy to give my 2 cents.

Final update:

I went back to the NIA with the contract and was able to use that to apply for the ARC before Chinese New Year. I think I was a bit lucky in this regard, because the woman helping me said this wasn’t usually how things were done. So, I paid 3,200 NTD more for the ARC and the resident visa “upgrade.”

Then, excited by my victory, I went to the bank, Land Bank, to try to set up an account. Long story short, you can’t open up an account (which goes against what my colleagues told me and what I read online) without an ARC. However, all they actually need is the ARC number, not the actual card. Apparently, you can get the number from the NIA while your ARC is being processed.

So, I went back to the NIA the next morning and found the same woman who had helped me the previous day. She seemed a bit annoyed that I didn’t ask for the ARC number when I applied, but in my defense, NO ONE told me I would need it. I didn’t even know it was possible to get the number. Anyhow, I got the number on an official looking paper and then went back to Land Bank. This time I was able to open an account. Annoyingly though, Land Bank told me that you can’t use this ATM card as a debit card. So no online shopping, and there was a 15 NTD surcharge for using it at other banks. Looks like I’ll be trying to open a China Trust account in the next few weeks…

I’m finally finished! Classes start Monday!

Awesome! Congratulations on getting all these things done. And good luck getting settled into your teaching.

Guy