The visa rules have changed a bit lately and, as far as I can see, most things written here are from a theroetical understanding of the new rules rather than an experience point of view so I thought I’d just share my recent experiences. Maybe alot of what I’m going to write is already well understood by many people here but hopefully it will be useful to someone in the future.
My ARC ran out at the end of October and I didn’t renew it in time because I thought it ran out at the end of November. I noticed mid November that it had expired so I bought a plane ticket to Hong Kong (on Eva airlines internet special for about NT$6500 return including tax). I didn’t actually leave Taiwan till a week after my ARC ran out. I had to pay the ‘up to 30 day fine’ anyway ($3000) so it didn’t make any difference if I went ASAP or the week later.
The secretaries at work were telling me to get a tourist visa in HK and then get a residence visa when I came back to Taiwan. Since I wanted everything to go smoothly I rang the HK office. The HK office told me that I wouldn’t be able to get a tourist visa but must get a residence visa (the new rules attempt to stop people upgrading their visas when they arrive in Taiwan). To get a residence visa I needed a work permit plus one copy (2 copies are OK but you have to pay a little extra (HK$36) so they can verify it with Taipei). I also got one of the secretaries to talk to HK just to make doubly sure I had understood everything correctly.
Unfortunately my work place hadn’t applied for a renewal of my work permit and I had to leave the country before 30 days were up (to avoid a bigger fine and perhaps more serious consequences). So, I went to HK with out a work permit and waited for my office to fax it to me. It took 5 working days to get the permit. Once I got the permit I went as soon as possible (9 the next morning) to the Taiwan office in HK.
Even though I knew I had all the necessary forms they still tried to make it difficult. I handed across my application form, passport, copy of passport, 2 photos and 2 copies of my work permit.
She: Where’s the original work permit?
Me: I was told a fax copy would be ok.
She: Yes they are you just need to pay for the verification.
Me: OK, fine.
She: In 2 days it can be processed
Me: I’ve been told it can be done in one day
She: Yes, it can, it just costs more.
Me: I want it done in one day please.
I’m pleased to say they do follow the law and are quite efficient but they don’t help you out much. I guess they get so many people through that it’s all a bit of a bore for them. I got my residence visa the next day at 9.30, went straight to the airport and got the next plane to Taipei.
Actually, it wasn’t really a residence visa they gave me in HK but a slip stapled in my passport that stated I could get a residence visa. At CKS airport before I went through customs I went to the visa office and obtained my proper residence visa (the sitcker in the passport). This is straight forward and costs no money as the hard work was done and money paid in HK.
The thing I want to stress is, don’t trust what colleagues, secretaries, friends and people on forums tell you. If I hadn’t called the HK office I would have had many more problems once I arrived in HK. If you need to do a visa run call the Taiwanese pseudo-embassy in the country you plan to go to and find out what forms they want you to have (because Taiwanese law tends to be a bit variable). Also, I was one of the few people in the HK office who had no real problem with my application. Many people were getting turned away because they didn’t have the correct forms (because they relied on what their employer told them).
It’s really easy to let your employer/secrertary do all the admin stuff for you when you don’t speak good chinese but remember that when things go wrong it’s you who will pay the fines. And there really is no excuse for not doing such things yourself as most people in visa offices speak good english. There is also a tendency of chinese staff to do everything for the foreigner because they think we can’t, but many offices here are not terribly organised and it’s easy for your paper work to get forgotten.
BTW, normally you get a letter from the police station warning you that your ARC is about to expire. I didn’t get the letter because I moved house and I didn’t know I had to keep my address up to date with the police. My address at the police station was the guest house I had stayed in for one month when I first arrived!