Overstaying ARC in times of coronavirus

Below is the note I put down at the end of May 2021. I’m posting here in the hope this might help someone unfortunate/foolish like me. More posts will follow.

Yes, that’s what’s happening to me. With several misunderstandings in the first COVID outbreak in Taiwan, I managed to miss the deadline of my ARC extension.

  1. What did I and didn’t I do?

My work-based ARC expired on the day I left the local company where I’d worked for the past two years. When I went to the Taipei immigration office to extend my stay - to search for a job - a couple of days later, the world fell apart.

*What I should have done, according to “What A Foreigner Should Know During Residence in Taiwan” (I didn’t know, did I?) by the National Immigration Agency:

Extension for Alien Resident Certificate(ARC): Within 30 days prior to the expiration date of your own residence, you must go to local service centres of National Immigration Agency(NIA) close to where you have resided with your passport, current ARC, Taiwanese spouse’s ID or household certificate, a 2x2 inch photo and NT$1,000 to 3,000 for the fee.

Let me save the details and my face. I only blame my idiocy and the volatile situation at the onset of Taiwan’s first Level 3.

Lesson 1: Check the information you have in person from the government (no offence, I love this site, but I believe that’s the fastest path).

  1. What happens when you overstay?

While I was frozen, the immigration officer at the counter told me to go to an NIA branch in the Wenshan district to pay a penalty within 90 days. She brought the sheet below for me:

Returning home, I went googling straight away. Can there be a ban on re-entry, for the rest of my life, perhaps?

The person who took my phone at the NIA reassured me: if you overstay less than 90 days, you can’t enter Taiwan for a year without visa; If you overstay more than 91 days, you cannot enter Taiwan for another year or longer. That’s it.

The base regulation seems to be “Alien Entry Prohibition Operation Directions”:

IV. Any foreign national, who has ever overstayed his/her visit, residency, or has ever worked illegally, shall be banned from entry for a period of time as prescribed below:
a Overstaying the visit or residency for under one year, shall be subject to a ban from entry for one year; overstaying over one year shall be subject to a ban from entry for a period equal to the length of the overstay, but the entry ban shall not exceed three years.
……
VIII. Any foreign national, who is banned from entry because of overstaying his/her visit or residency may be exempted from the ban, if he/she satisfies one of the following conditions:
a Having overstayed the visit or residency for less than ninety-one days; however, such a person shall not be allowed to enter the state via the visa-waiver or landing visa program for one year.

OK, that’s why the officer at the counter told me to go to the Wenshan branch within 90 days. I can come back within a year if I can get a visa in that case.

Yet, on the same phone call, another hope was dashed. At the immigration office, I was told to find a job within 29 days, in which case my ARC would continue to be valid without a break.

The input was false, according to the person on the other end of the line (cf.). The gap could have been filled, he said, if I had obtained a work permit for the next job on or before the date my ARC expired.

That makes sense, because a work permit should take about 3 weeks to process, and what if the application fails?

Lesson 2: Check the information you have with different persons in the know.

So, the penalties of overstay are: a fine; exit from Taiwan; and entry ban for a year or more.

  1. Now what?

Exit to where, when state borders are shutting down due to COVID-19?

I had two choices: Japan, where my relatives lived; and Australia, where I was from.

First, are there commercial flights? At least on booking websites, expensive flight tickets seem to be available to one of these places.

Second, are their borders still open?

Japan was closer and the regulations on the 14-day quarantine seemed looser than Australia. An Australian passport holder can, in normal times, enter and stay in Japan for up to 90 days. I rang three places to know if that was still true:

Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Taipei Office (Japanese Embassy):
You should ask the Japanese immigration office or the Japanese embassy in Australia. You have ARC? (My instinctive reply was “yes”) Then, send us an email detailing your circumstances. We may be able to help you obtain a visa. What’s written on our website isn’t applicable in these times of the pandemic.

Embassy of Japan in Australia:
Currently the no-visa option to Japan is closed for any nationals. But if you are visiting relatives, we can help you get either: 1) 90-day visitor visa or; 2) years-long, multiple-entry visa with invitation from the hosts in Japan (the procedure for this option seems ultra complex).

Immigration Services Agency of Japan:
Well, you may or may not be able to enter Japan on arrival without a visa. How to say, it’s the same with the normal times, but a little stricter these days. It should help if you bring proof of the relationship with your relatives. But perhaps obtaining a visa is the surest way.

The conclusion I drew from these obscure replies was that I needed a visa that needed ARC, or would risk being shooed away on arrival in Japan. And even if I managed to get in, I’d have only 3 months there to find a new job in Taiwan remotely, and who knew when Taiwan would reopen. No way.

*The Taiwanese border remains closed for non-residents as of the time of writing this post.

What about Australia? Citizens and permanent residents can return from overseas, but in limited numbers, e.g. less than 430 arrivals per day at Sydney, and 1,000 per week at Melbourne. And the 14-day quarantine at a government-arranged top-notch hotel incurs a hefty fee of 2,500-3,000 AUD per person depending on which airport you arrive - and in a room without an opening window or a step out of the door. Pre-departure vaccination doesn’t seem to make difference as of May 2021.

I have no choice. My savings that would have supported me while searching for a job in Taiwan will benefit an Australian cause.

Besides the daunting quarantine, I will have to: 1) get tested for a negative result; 2) file a travel declaration; 3) undergo health screening on arrival.

Can I really get a seat on a commercial flight? What will happen at the Wenshan immigration office? During PCR testing and on board the flight? How do I move out, when the international freight rates are soaring and deliveries are delayed or even suspended, due to COVID-19? Watch the space.

P.S.1. I was encouraged to post this by this thread. How much I can relate, rob9221504.

P.S.2. All officers I talked to were very nice, granted that they could be wrong and might not know about my overstay.

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Silly question: could this retroactively applied (from may 15) suspension of all (?) ARC related services in any way help you?

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You can also fly to the US if you qualify for ESTA and get a negative PCR test. Montana is nice this time of the year.

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Thanks so much, olm!

Yes, actually I started the thread because I no longer needed hiding. I have just updated the original post. What a relief, though I still can’t really feel it :sweat_smile:

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Aha, vacation at Montana, I’ll definitely think about it next time I overstay! Thankfully the reason for me to leave Taiwan has disappeared for now as I wrote in my update above. But thank you for thinking of this~

Update:

My overstay record was revoked. My application for ARC extension was accepted. It will take two weeks to process.

That’s because a relief measure was introduced.

移民署表示,全國疫情警戒第三級期間,為避免接觸及人流移動,並兼顧外來人口之安全及權益保障,除對於居留效期即將到期者,已實施自動延長居留期間30日之措施外,入境後首次申辦居留證、在臺經外交部領事事務局核發居留簽證及辦理居留資料變更登記等案件也暫緩臨櫃辦理,並回溯自5月15日起實施,都只要於疫情警戒標準降為第二級之日起30日內,再至服務站辦理居留手續即可;另對於外來人口的停留效期即將到期及原經移民署許可延長離臺者,也可以暫時不用到服務站辦理延期停留及離臺手續,等到疫情警戒標準降至第二級的隔天起10日以內,符合延期資格的外來人口再準備相關文件到站補辦延期停留。
(2021-07-14) https://www.immigration.gov.tw/5385/7229/7238/269776/

In a press release, the NIA said it was granting an automatic 30-day extension with immediate effect to foreign residents whose ARCs are set to expire, in view of Taiwan’s ongoing Level 3 COVID-19 alert.
……
The suspension will be applied retroactively to May 15, the date the Level 3 alert was first announced for Taipei and New Taipei.
July 14 (CNA) https://focustaiwan.tw/society/202107140021

I found the earlier announcement mentioned in the above NIA release, in slightly different wording and without the retroactive part:

移民署表示,基於防疫優先,並兼顧外來人口之安全及權益保障,對於居留效期即將到期者,實施自動延長居留期間30日之措施,不限次數,實施期間至疫情警戒標準降為第二級之日起30日止,屆時民眾再至服務站辦理延期居留即可;另對於外來人口的停留效期即將到期及原經移民署許可延長離臺者,也可以暫時不用到各服務站辦理延期停留及離臺手續,等到疫情警戒標準降至第二級的隔天起10天以內,符合延期資格的外來人口只要準備相關文件再至服務站補辦延期停留即可。
(2021-05-31) https://www.immigration.gov.tw/5385/7229/7238/264897/

  1. Those who hold a valid Alien Resident Certificate that is about to expire, will be granted an automatic 30-day extension without limit on the number of times until the CECC announces lowering the nationwide alert to Level 2. They should visit the NIA’s local service centers in person and apply for an extension within 30 days after the downgrade of the alert level.
    (2021-05-31) National Immigration Agency, R.O.C. (Taiwan)-NIA Announces Authorized Residency or Stay Relief Measures Due to COVID-19

I rang the NIA the next day. The officer said matter of factly that my ARC had been extended automatically until August and that I should come sooner if I wanted 6-month extension.

The trick was: I left my job on 19 May and my ARC expired on the same day. I went to the NIA a couple of days later to be told that I was overstaying. I was, at that time. I wasn’t, now.

Over the past 2 months, I booked a flight ticket and had them rescheduled twice due to flight cancellation etc., registered for PCR testing and rescheduled, contacting people back home, packed stuff to move out and was about to end my tenancy.

I don’t know if I was lucky or not. If there were no Level 3, would I still have gotten confused about the expiry date? If I had exited immediately, would I have had to carry an overstay record for the rest of my life? What if the alert level had gone down earlier and I had been unaware of the relief measure?

What I learned: Be flexible. Follow your fate. But do whatever you can to make sure anyway.

Now I’m just waiting for my new ARC to arrive. If you have had a similar experience, I do hope that it also ended/ends well.

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Reposted above.

Glad this had a happy ending man, good for you!

What’s the plan next?

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Very good, glad to hear that by chance it worked out for you!

And thanks a lot for sharing. Not everybody will be that lucky in terms of timing. So all us other people: let’s take that stuff seriously, not everyone will be so lucky to be bailed out by a breakout event. Let’s not count on it :wink:

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That is so true. It happens when it happens, but it’d be good if it can be prevented with occasional reminders like this…

Thanks to you too for your time and kind responses!

Thanks wonton!

I want to do so many things. Life’s short. For the moment, let’s prepare for the typhoon. Stay safe!

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