Most of everything I have experienced in Taiwan is scattered across different posts in Forumosa. But I wanted to summarize my overall experience into a single post for the convenience of future readers. I think it’s important for people to understand what to expect when trying to settle down permanently in Taiwan, especially with a foreign family. Having done this as a gold card holder makes it even more valuable especially for the hundreds of thousands of talents that are expected to come to Taiwan in the following years.
What is the Taiwan Gold Card program?
For those who don’t know, “Gold Card” is the primary program in Taiwan for attracting foreign talent. Starting in 2018, about 5800 gold cards have been issued till date.
While these numbers are not bad, it is worth considering that Taiwan being COVID-free in the early months of the pandemic contributed to the growth in Gold Card applications.
There are several ways to get a Taiwan Gold Card. But by far the easiest way is to show an average monthly gross salary of 160000 NTD (5000 USD), regardless of where it was earned.
In Taiwan, 160,000 NTD per month is a high salary, typically reserved for executives or senior professionals. In most of the developed world, this salary isn’t that uncommon or all that exceptional.
Coincidently though, this is an unattainable salary for most talents (even exceptional ones) who are based in poor or developing countries. For example, someone earning 5000 USD per month in Philippines or India would already be in top 1% if not the top 10% of wage earners their country.
Taiwan’s Gold Card program does lean heavily towards certain nationalities. This is reflected in the official data below:
Source : Public Statistics | Taiwan Gold Card
Even if we assume “Others” is comprised of applicants from developing countries, it’s still obvious that 70% of gold Card holders are from developed countries.
This data is the opposite of what you will see if you look at high-migration countries with successful skill-migration or talent programs. There, you will find that a significant percentage of the highly skilled migration comes from the developing world.
Skilled and talented professionals from poor or developing countries are more likely to immigrate permanently compared to those from highly developed nations, which is why most programs are geared towards attracting everyone possible.
To get 400000 gold card holders within the next few years, Taiwan would need to reach out to the rest of the world. In fact, South Asia and Southeast Asia are good places to start but this cannot happen while the discriminative salary rule stays in place. I am sure that’s not the only hurdle here. According to the Gold Card website, 40,000 consultations have taken place. I don’t know what that means. How many people applied and were rejected? I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the rejections were for people who applied from developing nations. They don’t have the salary option and very often they aren’t believed unless they get twenty stamps on a document.
To attract skilled talent from the developing world, Taiwan is the one that needs to improve. Top Doctors, scientists, academics, engineers etc. from developing countries don’t have remote jobs to bring with them here. They’ll only bring their skills and talent and expect to find work in the country they immigrate to.
There is an exceptional lack of job opportunities for foreigners in Taiwan. As a foreigner living in Taiwan, if you are in a specialized field, you are more likely to get a remote job from US, Europe, or China rather than get hired by a local Taiwanese employer. This is not something the Gold Card office can fix in a few years. But there are other things they can improve e.g., providing an easier path to nationality and better conditions for permanent settlement with your foreign family. I say “foreign family” because I expect there to be many family persons among the hundreds of thousands of mid to senior professionals that are going to come to Taiwan.
A path to nationality and ease of settlement with immediate family are among the most crucial factors that drive highly skilled migration globally. If Taiwan can at least improve these two areas in the short-term, there is still a chance they can get more high-skilled permanent settlers.
This is where my story comes in. I am among the very first people who converted from a Taiwan Gold Card to Citizenship and I also happen to be from a developing south Asian country, which says something about the path I took.
Below is a summary of my overall experience in Taiwan as I slowly moved towards citizenship and tried to integrate my family into Taiwan.
2014: Moving to Taiwan
In 2014, I was still living in Germany on another talent-migration program known as the German “Blue Card”. After accepting a job offer from a Taiwanese company, I decided to move to Taiwan.
Straightaway I ran into a problem. TECO (the de-facto embassy of Taiwan) in Germany initially refused to handle my case, because of my Pakistani nationality. They wanted me to do things from TECO in Saudi Arabia, which I refused. It took me over 4 months and a lot of documentation and authentications to finally get a residence visa from TECO Germany.
This was my first experience with a TECO. Prior to this, I had already been to over twenty-five countries and had abundant experience dealing with embassies. I’d rate my experience with TECO as among the worst I have ever had. Even at some of the toughest embassies like US, Canada, UK, South Africa etc. I’ve had a better experience.
All these years later, and after many subsequent experiences with multiple TECOs, I still stand by my words. It’s really an awful experience dealing with a TECO if you happen to be a national of a third-world country.
2018: Getting a Gold Card and Getting Married
I successfully moved to Taiwan in late 2014. In 2018, I learned about the gold Card program and was among the first batch of people to get it successfully.
I am not entirely sure if I was among the first 50, but I was definitely part of the first 100.
That same year I decided to get married to my Filipino girlfriend whom I had met in Taiwan. Since we were both based in Taiwan and we both had ARCs, I thought it would make sense to get married locally.
After multiple rejections at various household registration offices, one finally agreed. The overall process of marriage in Taiwan was made exceptionally painful by the TECOs we had to deal with, specifically TECO Philippines and TECO Saudi Arabia. They used ridiculous excuses to refuse to authenticate our single certificates, which were needed to get married in Taiwan.
After four months and spending thousands of NTD, all the paperwork was finally ready for marriage, and we eventually succeeded in getting married in Taiwan.
At the time, we were one of very few all-foreign couples who got married in Taiwan. In fact, the district office in the outskirts of Tainan that issued our marriage certificate told us that we were the first foreign couple in that office’s entire history of existence.
Even the Filipino consulate in Kaohsiung was so impressed that they asked us to help explain the entire process to them so they could guide other Filipinos, specifically migrant workers, as many of them used to wait for years before they could return home for marriage.
In the following years, both directly and indirectly we have helped a lot of Filipino couples marry in Taiwan.
2018 : Getting a spouse visa
After we were married in Taiwan it was time to fix her residence status. Immigration outright refused to even look at our Taiwanese marriage certificate. This was also the first time I realized that my wife’s ARC was different than mine, even though it looked the same. We were told that a blue-collar ARC couldn’t be converted to spouse ARC.
This law is discriminative, and there is a reason it’s designed this way. The primary purpose is to make it very difficult for the hundreds of thousands southeast Asian workers in Taiwan (mostly female) from trying to settle down by marrying a local or by giving birth.
After refusal at immigration, the only option given to us was for my wife to return to Philippines first, then apply for a dependent (spouse) visa and then return to Taiwan to apply for a new ARC.
At the time we had only been married for less than four weeks. We said our goodbyes in the hopes of being together soon. I was confident she would get her visa quickly since we had a Taiwanese marriage certificate.
These hopes were crushed when TECO Philippines also refused to accept the Taiwanese marriage certificate. They said that they don’t accept a “Taiwanese marriage certificate” for two foreigners.
They could only issue my wife a spouse visa if she could produce a “Filipino marriage certificate”. Registration of our Taiwanese marriage in Philippines would take another four months. Having no other option, we decided to wait.
Four months later the Filipino marriage certificate was ready, so my wife reapplied for the dependent visa only to be rejected again. This time TECO said that we also needed to produce a marriage registration certificate from Pakistan. It was infuriating because they didn’t tell us this earlier.
I quickly realized that it was impossible to register a Taiwanese marriage back home. TECO wouldn’t budge. Being on a Gold Card didn’t help either.
At this point my wife and I were effectively separated with no way of living together in Taiwan. This was one of those periods in Taiwan when I seriously considered leaving the country permanently.
I was forced to look at alternative ways to get together. I decided to bring my wife in as a student. I applied for her admission to NCKU in Tainan. She was accepted and received a letter of admission.
I prepared everything for her and sent her to TECO to apply for a student visa. Surprisingly, she was refused again. Sadly, by then TECO in Philippines were quite aware of our case. They told her that she wouldn’t be allowed to enter Taiwan on any other visa except a dependent visa. Back to square one!
The marriage itself was under a lot of strain. Sadly, for me, my wife wasn’t particularly impressed with my performance. After slipping into depression for a while, which resulted in me quitting my job, I eventually found a solution. It was an incredibly inconvenient and expensive one, but it was the only option remaining. I went ahead with remarrying my wife in Pakistan. It was an entirely independent marriage in another country but to the same person that I was already married to in Taiwan and Philippines.
I successfully got a Pakistani marriage certificate, which was accepted by TECO Philippines, and they finally issued her a dependent visa.
Overall, it took 8 months, three marriage registrations and a couple of hundred thousand NTD to finally get my wife in to Taiwan.
Obviously, my case is rare and unique, but it still exposes some of the serious flaws within the Taiwanese system. If only they had accepted my Taiwanese marriage certificate, my wife and I wouldn’t have suffered this much and for this long.
To avoid experiencing a similar nightmare, I would strongly recommend any two foreigners in Taiwan to avoid marriage in Taiwan at all costs, especially if it’s for the purposes of permanent settlement in Taiwan. It is better to get married in your own country or elsewhere.
2019 : Birth of my daughter and Applying for Naturalization
In late 2019, my daughter was born in Taiwan. Between our two nationalities I could only get her a Filipino passport in Taiwan. We use her Filipino nationality to get her a dependent ARC.
Coincidently the same month my daughter was born, I also became qualified for Taiwanese naturalization as I had completed 5 years of work in Taiwan (with a good portion of it on Taiwan’s Gold Card).
I learnt that dependent minor children can be put on the same naturalization application as an adult. This was great because it meant my daughter and I could become Taiwanese citizens together and my wife could join us afterwards.
I visited the local district office to inquire about the naturalization requirements. I was told that I needed a police clearance for myself from Pakistan. For my daughter they needed a police clearance certificate and a single certificate from Philippines. My daughter was an infant, I believe only a few weeks old at that time.
These requirements for my daughter were infuriating and I complained about their absurdity. Eventually I was told that a newborn baby could be exempted from providing a police clearance, since technically she had never been out of Taiwan. However, they wouldn’t remove the requirement of a “single certificate” (a.k.a proof of no marriage).
I spent a few months to try and convince them but failed. I was left with no choice but to go through with their requirements. This was 2020 and it was the peak of the global COVID measures which made it impossible to get the required documents, as offices and TECOs were often closed, and appointments were hard to come by. A few times I successfully got the documents only for them to expire by the time they got to Taiwan.
Taiwan only accepts police clearance and single certificate issued within 6 months.
I still recall having to send my mother-in-law in the Philippines to apply for a single certificate of her newborn granddaughter. The whole experience was extremely embarrassing for her. Her request was met with laughter and ridicule at the offices there. She did get it eventually though.
By the end of 2020 all my documents were finally ready. Obviously, getting the documents through TECOs was a torturous experience again. It took me 6 months and over 30,000 NTD to get things ready.
In January 2021, I successfully filed our naturalization application together.
2021: Renunciation of Citizenship
In April 2021, both my daughter and I became nationals of Taiwan. We both received beautiful-looking Taiwan Nationality Certificates. But this was just the start of the process. In Taiwan, obtaining nationality is just a first step towards citizenship. Nationality is temporary and can be rescinded if you fail to renounce your citizenship (typically) within the first 12 months.
Upon inquiring I found out that Philippines doesn’t allow those under 18 years of age to renounce their citizenship. Taiwan on the other hand refused to give citizenship unless she renounced the original citizenship.
There are very few countries that don’t give citizenship to minors automatically upon the naturalization of parents. Sadly, Taiwan isn’t one of those countries.
In the end, the only compromise Taiwan offered was to let my daughter wait until she was eighteen before she could apply for Taiwanese citizenship. She would have to remain on a TARC (a type of ARC for nationals) for the next 17 years.
This means that she will remain a foreigner even if both her parents’ and all her future siblings become Taiwanese citizens. She alone will keep this status within our family.
It’s a pity that Taiwan hasn’t given any thought to long-term effects of different immigration statuses within a single family. This is something that other western countries are acutely aware of, and they strive to unify the immigration status of a single household to avoid undue difficulties.
After giving up on my daughter’s citizenship case, I focused on my own. I successfully renounced my citizenship via Pakistan Embassy in Hong Kong. But getting that certificate back in to Taiwan was made challenging by TECO Hong Kong. Citing COVID as the reason, TECO HK was only offering appointments that were 3 to 4 months ahead. I only had a few months left till the 12-month deadline. In fact, I had already received a letter reminding me of the deadline in 4 months.
Given the fact that I had already given up my current citizenship and Taiwan could potentially cancel my temporary Taiwanese nationality, there was a real possibility that I could become stateless.
I am sure it would have been interesting to see one of the first Taiwan Gold Card holders going for citizenship to be left stateless by Taiwan
Somehow, I was able to convince TECO HK to give me an urgent appointment. But when my agent visited them, they rejected my document saying my certificate didn’t follow the proper procedure.
As it happened, my renunciation certificate was given to me directly by my embassy and it bore the stamp of the embassy and signature of the ambassador. This is how it’s always been done. But TECO HK wanted me to send my certificate back to my country for an additional stamp from the ministry of foreign affairs there. This even after my embassy insisted that it wasn’t required.
It’s nice when Taiwan dictates what comprises a legal document for other countries as well. This is next-level bureaucracy.
Getting my certificate approved from my country was problematic since I wasn’t a citizen anymore. All complaints to various offices in Taiwan were ignored. Thankfully, somehow, I prevailed again.
I spent the next 6 weeks, and 50,000 NTD in total getting that document ready. This included hiring an agent in Hong Kong, paying them twice, sending the documents back and forth between Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Pakistan.
Thankfully, I was able to submit my renunciation certificate in Taiwan just in time.
2022 : Becoming Taiwanese and Family registration
In April 2022 I handed in my last ARC at immigration and applied for the letter that was needed to transition me from a foreigner to a citizen. Typically getting this letter takes about a week, after which you can head over to the next office to get your ID card printed.
I waited 5 weeks without any form of identification. Given the unusual delay, I was expecting a new issue. I was proven right. The Immigration office told me that the only way for me to proceed to the next step would be to sign a statement saying that I AGREE for my wife to NOT be added to my Taiwan ID card or household registration.
House Registration is a required process for all Taiwanese citizens. Your Household registry holds your residence address as well as information of your direct relatives e.g., spouse and children
The reason my wife couldn’t be added is because I couldn’t prove I was married to my spouse. I showed them the Taiwanese marriage certificate, plus the other two marriage certificates (from my last struggle back in 2018) but they rejected all of them.
I showed them the “valid” Spouse ARC of my wife, a status that she had held for 4+ years. This was a spouse residence card that was issued by the Immigration office itself. They still refused. They advised me to sign the paper and to try to work it out at the household registration office, which was part of the next step.
This is a classic Taiwan tactic i.e., getting rid of headache caused by “foreigners” by pushing them to go backward/forward to other departments or offices.
I didn’t want to spend any more time without an ID card, so I went ahead and signed the letter. When I finally got my Taiwan ID card, it was a bittersweet moment. I was proud to be Taiwanese but also quite stressed. The space for spouse in my Taiwan ID card was left blank. My household registration certificate (effectively my family register) had no one in it except me. It looked like I was single and childless, at least on paper. Seems becoming a citizen pushed me back to where I was 5 years ago.
Now the immigration office was completely out of the picture. As a citizen I could only deal with the household registration office, which is under the Ministry of Interior of Taiwan. I tried everything to convince them that my wife was my wife. First, I showed them my Taiwanese marriage certificate, which was in fact issued by them, but they refused to accept their own issued document.
It’s hard to imagine any govt. office anywhere rejecting a valid certificate that they issued themselves. But this happens in Taiwan.
Slowly, I made my way through every proof I had. Here’s a list of everything I offered as proof that they rejected:
- Marriage certificate issued by Taiwan
- Marriage certificate from Philippines, authenticated by TECO
- Marriage certificate from Pakistan, authenticated by TECO
- A still valid Spouse ARC, issued by Immigration
- Our daughter’s Taiwanese birth certificate listing us as parents
- The fact that for 5 years, we had lived at the same address together, which was also listed on our ARCs
- My spouse’s full name written in my last ARC
By the end I figured out the root cause. They wanted NEW proof, which meant all pre-existing proof of our marriage was unacceptable.
The household registration office simply had an SOP (standard operating procedure) and they needed to follow it no matter what.
In Taiwan, you will learn that SOPs trample common sense.
Pro tip: It took me 5 years to realize that a Taiwanese marriage certificate is completely worthless, especially for two foreigners. If you want to get it as a token or use it for overseas registration, then good. But don’t ever think of using it in Taiwan or at a TECO for anything.
After all the trauma I suffered in 2018 for 8 months at the hands of the Taiwanese bureaucracy, I couldn’t believe that I had to do it all over again. Prepare two new marriage certificates from two different countries, including one that I had renounced.
After arguing with MOI (ministry of interior) and Household registration office I finally convinced them to exempt me from providing a new certificate from Pakistan, since it was extremely challenging for me to do that as a non-citizen.
Now, I just needed one NEW marriage certificate from Philippines. But just like clockwork TECO Philippines refused. They said they had already done this back in 2018. Their SOP didn’t allow a second marriage document to be authenticated.
For the next eight weeks I was in a situation where TECO in Philippines refused me the document I needed meanwhile Household Office in Taiwan refused to proceed without it.
This is another classic situation in Taiwan where you will be bounced back and forth between multiple offices as they each follow conflicting SOPs that do not cover cases with special circumstances.
After three months and another 20,000 NTD spent on agents, authentications, and translations, I was finally ready with a NEW proof of marriage from Philippines. After some final reluctance from the household registration office, they finally put my wife’s name in my ID card as well as my household register.
Obviously, it’s a sin to expect things to go smoothly when dealing with Taiwanese bureaucracy. At the very last minute, another problem revealed itself. Now they said they couldn’t add my daughter to my household register because she is a foreigner. Apparently foreigner children of Taiwanese citizens cannot be added to a household register.
When I asked them why a “foreign spouse” can be added to a household register but not “foreign children”, I didn’t get an answer.
At this point I have been so exhausted dealing with Taiwanese authorities that I decided to give up on this matter altogether. I will deal with it later.
2022 : Getting Parents in to Taiwan :
Taiwan doesn’t offer any long-term visa/stay for parents. There is no option to get them an APRC or even just a regular ARC, even if you are a citizen of Taiwan.
If you look at the high skill migration policies of many leading western countries you will notice that those places are more aware of the importance of family unification, especially when it comes to parents. Multi-year visas (even up to 10 years) are common. In many places when talents become citizens, their parents can even become permanent residents or citizens themselves.
Taiwan historically has been against settlement of parents of long-term foreign residents. As such Taiwan has one of the least interesting visas for living with your parents. Regardless of whether you are an ARC holder, an APRC holder or even a naturalized Taiwanese citizen, your parents can only get up to a 3-month visa, extendable for another 3 months. Often, parents coming from developing countries will only get a 1-month visa instead of 3 months.
Taiwan Gold Card holders are extremely fortunate in this case. Since they can get their parents a 6-month visa for Taiwan, which is extendable for another 6 months, for a total stay of 1 year. This isn’t bad for a temporary visit, but it still doesn’t solve the problem for permanent residents like me. I want my parents to stay with me, just like Taiwanese do.
For decades, hundreds of thousands of foreign spouses in Taiwan (mostly from southeast Asia) have struggled between raising a family in Taiwan while being separated from their parents back home. These are not skilled migrants or foreign talents who can fight for their rights effectively. The government isn’t that eager to help them. Even though they have given up their citizenship and lived here for decades, fully adopted the local language and culture, raised children here, built local businesses here, they still don’t have the same rights to parental reunification as regular Taiwanese citizens. Just like Taiwanese adults, those from Vietnam and Philippines also like to stay close to their parents and care for them in their old age.
Fortunately for me, as an ex-gold card holder, I get to enjoy the benefits of 6-month visa for my parents despite converting to citizenship. I feel guilty that I get to benefit from this double standard. It’s no doubt unfair to the thousands of other foreigners who naturalized before me and have contributed to Taiwan a lot more than me. They have parents too. But I will take what I can get.
My parents are at an age where they can no longer take care of themselves, and I am left with no option but to bring them here to take care of them. As there is no TECO where they live, international travel is required to apply for a visa. Due to their old age and disabilities, they can’t get out of the country on their own. To solve this, I had them send their passports to me in Taiwan.
I contacted TECO Philippines and explained my situation to them. I told them I needed to apply for my parent’s visa from there, via an agent. After some back and forth for several weeks, they agreed and offered an appointment.
When the agent showed up with my parents’ passports and applications, unexpectedly, at the very last moment, they rejected both applications. The reason they said was because my parents weren’t residents of Philippines.
My only issue here is that TECO Philippines said that they DO accept visas applied via agents and they also said that they DON’T require parents to come for in-person interviews. So, it begs the question why is being in the country required? Why reject applications purely on a technicality?
This isn’t the first time I got visas for my parents. I did it once while I was still on a gold card. Last time it wasn’t smooth either. They gave them 3 months visa instead of 6 months as per the law. Later I got a “sorry” from BOCA and they had to cancel the old visa and replaced it with a new one of 6 months for free, right here in Kaohsiung.
Interestingly, last time I applied for their visas myself via Dubai as I was passing through. I was able to get visas even though my parents weren’t present in UAE. So, I don’t understand this rule of “presence in the country”.
I asked Taiwan Gold Card office for help. They sent me to BOCA/MOFA. But as soon as the lady on the phone hear that my parents were Pakistani nationals, she became very hostile and unhelpful. She told me that the only way my parents can get a visa is to travel by themselves to a country with a TECO. When I told her I was able to get it from Dubai without their presence in 2020, she said that “they made a mistake”. She also literally said that it’s “your problem” if your parents can’t get themselves to Hong Kong, Philippines, or South Korea.
This is an ongoing issue that I am still trying to deal with. I almost have no options. I am not sure if I will get through this one. I don’t have the energy. I have half a mind to just quit Taiwan.
Global talent, especially experienced professionals who come to Taiwan will not just be lone individuals but many of them will have families (non-Taiwanese families too). Given the renunciation rule there’s a fair chance that 99% of professionals from developed countries will go the APRC route only.
People from developing countries would be more willing to renounce their citizenship to settle permanently here but this will only happen if Taiwan makes things easier.
Given the exceptional difficulty of trying to settle down in Taiwan with an all-foreign family, I don’t think in the long-term we will see many individuals go through the citizenship route in Taiwan. Perhaps, some will not even opt for Taiwan if they are aware of these issues beforehand.
Knowing what I know now, and having experienced all this, I sometimes question whether this has all been worth it. I could have stayed in Europe or taken my skills elsewhere. I have always had offers from US and Canada but I always picked Taiwan in the end because I love Taiwan. Despite everything I like living in Taiwan. This has truly been my home for many years now. And I really wanted to settle down here forever. But the reality that a lot of foreigners like me eventually find out is that Taiwan doesn’t want permanent foreign settlers. I don’t know if it’s on purpose or an accident, but the restrictive laws, processes, and acute lack of opportunities in Taiwan often serve to actively discourage foreigners from permanently settling down. This is even more evident if you are from a third world country.
Taiwan is indeed a great place to live, work and enjoy for a few years. But at some point, you will want to move back home or find another destination, especially if you have no Taiwanese family.
Taiwan’s Gold Card program is probably one of the top talent programs coming out of Asia, but whether anyone should choose this program depends on their intentions. This is a good option if someone wants to experience the incredible beauty and culture of this island while also becoming a part of the local economy, either as an entrepreneur or as a remote worker. But if your intention is permanent immigration via this program, there are a lot of other countries and talent programs that are better suited for this, especially if you have the right skills, talent and experience to qualify for those.