Pros and Cons of visa-free long-term stay in Taiwan (aka what are my options?)

Hi, new to the forums thanks for your time and apologies in advance if I’ve made a mistake posting here. I have searched and skimmed through quite a few threads but still have questions. I’ll try to be as brief as possible while covering all the basics.

Who we are:

  • Me, my wife + two boys (4, 2) all US citizens (Chinese ethnicity)
  • Have business income from the US and will not work in Taiwan

What we want to do:

  • Move to Taipei in fall of 2021 and live there for 2-3 years at least
  • Want to have son start public school in Taiwan in Sept 2022

So the main question is, can we do that first year (2021-2022) on just tourist visas? What are the pros and cons for this? We would be totally fine doing visa runs, paying for private health insurance, private kindergarten and short term leases. I wonder if opening a bank account would be a stumbling block or is it even necessary? Anything else I’m not thinking about?

Other things to consider:

  • A bit hesitant to pursue investment visa
  • Would be open to starting a business, but from a strict interpretation of the guidelines I don’t believe we qualify for the entrepreneur visa
  • I am planning to apply for the Gold Card but it’s not a slam dunk (one of those gray area criteria so I’d like to prepare a plan B)
  • My wife is also a Macau PR. Does this affect things in any way?
  • My aunt is a citizen and runs a small business in Taipei with several employees. She is not the owner but is the de facto CEO. Can she (and should I ask her for) help?

Alright many thanks again!

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Would you be willing to take Chinese classes or teach at a cram school? Neither one is super time consuming, and it’s pretty easy. But it does take a commitment. BUT it at least gives you an ARC… which will be a huge peace of mind… which you really need, being that you have a family.

I don’t think Taiwan is going to resume visa-free until after a COVID-19 vaccine is discovered. But suppose they do resume it… in which case, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to be as lax as they have been in the past.

And don’t trust some random news article that said things are going back to the way they were before. You don’t want to be stranded in the airport indefinitely with two fussy kids. (This is just a worst-case scenario I’m imagining in the event that Taiwan chooses to crack down on people abusing visa free. Nobody knows what will happen)

I’d wait at least a few years and make sure that they really are going back to normal.

I hope someone more familiar with Taiwan’s laws and news can chime in.


Being on visa-free doesn’t give you a proper legal status in the country so it would complicate things if you got tossed a curveball.

I believe with the entrepreneur visa you can also invest in a company, but don’t quote me on it.


Doing visa runs means you don’t get to participate in Taiwan’s excellent health care system and this is a big negative.

You also don’t build time towards an APRC.

And you do have the hassle of having to leave on time every time.

IF you can do it in some way to get an ARC, it is way better.

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on a visa-free long term stay? :thinking:

Thanks for your reply. Yeah I would definitely be willing to take Chinese classes. I mean, I’d probably do that even if I already have an ARC. But…I believe that would only last for 6 months or so??

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No, was asking for the year prior to starting public school. Figure we could possibly have something official sorted by then, after one year “living there.” But if not, then private school would be an alternative.

Of course, this begs the question, why not just get things official sorted beforehand? Yes, this would be ideal…so just trying to get a full picture of all the options.

You can stay for a maximum of three years on a student visa. Every couple months, you must submit proof that you have minimal absences and have good grades to get it renewed… and eventually, you can work your way toward an ARC. Renewal is technically not guaranteed, even if you have perfect attendance and perfect grades… but I’ve never heard of anyone who got denied. (Except for one friend of mine who only attended one or two classes per semester. That’s a no-no.)

The only problem is that you can only get dependent visas if you’re working. So, your wife would have to take Chinese classes, too.

EDIT: Oh, and just so you know, you can’t take evening classes if you’re on a student visa. Classes must either be morning or afternoon (before 4pm, I think).

EDIT: It seems that you can get family visas while being a student (see below). I’m not sure what the requirements are, as the application I use for my family specifically says it’s for family of foreigners on a working visa.

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You mentioned Chinese ethnicity. Can you be more specific?

Thanks. I’ve been reading a bit and still a little unclear but it seems the studying Mandarin option, though imperfect, could be a backup plan.

Well I’m 100% Han Chinese unfortunately (I say that because I took a genealogy test, and was really hoping to discover something more interesting). My lineage is Hakka, in Malaysia for the past 3-4 generations, and I was the first to be born in America.

My wife is Cantonese from Macau.

That should be okay. I asked because if your ancestry were more recent / linked to Taiwan they would likely deny a future APRC application because APRC holders cannot have ROC nationality.

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You would be surprised at how flexible this visa can be! I’d keep it in mind as a backup plan.

You basically get one year to establish your Taiwanese company and then fall under rules similar to other business visas when you go to renew it ($100k USD revenue or $33k expenses or 3 Taiwanese employees). But no one bothers you during the first year (except for taxes).

You can also set up a “Representative office” or a “Branch office” for your US company, which may be advantageous to the Entrepreneur visa, depending on your situation, income, and how you earn your income.

But if you qualify, the Gold Card or the shorter-term “looking for a job” visa are straightforward. You should be able to get those if you qualify. You need to be seriously looking for a high-skilled job though to take advantage of those.


if private school means private elementary school, your kid needs an ARC.

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you can open a bank account on a tourist visa.


Thanks for sharing. So you can do the entrepreneur visa even if it’s not a tech company, not innovative, etc? What are the true requirements if not exactly what is stated?

Ah ok good to know. So definitely by school age we will need an ARC somehow. What about private kindergarten? Do you know? My friend will be asking her kids’ kindergarten administrators and getting back to me eventually.

From what I know, the Gold Card is the simplest way and best fit for you. If you qualify salary, you can apply under the Economy category, and chances of getting it are quite high. You also get some a certain tax exemption for overseas-sourced income. It’s also good for a full 3 years once you are approved, if you apply late 2021 and get it for fall 2021, it will cover you. Gold card should also get you resident visas for your family based on other posters in the giant gold card thread. The only thing is the validity time starts from when the card is approved, not when you pick it up, but it’s probably very fine to just get it a few months earlier rather than stress. You can also apply after you enter on a visa-free if everything clears by late 2021.

Pre-COVID, I also considered visa-running, but I realized that lacking health insurance was not as fun, having a local ID helps if you are going to be there longer than a few months, plus in any event of non-trivial disruption e.g. with kids, it could get realer. If I was going to send kids to public school I would avoid visa-running.

There is also the entrepreneur visa as mentioned by godzilla (welcome!), which requires a little more work to apply for. Plus after the first year you’ll have to renew it. I asked someone local who was helping with visas/working with an agency and she mentioned this was a good choice especially if you were going to start something, but if you already qualify for gold card it is easier that way since less paperwork.

The easiest requirement is probably “Has established enterprise with innovation capability in Taiwan and acts as its legal representative, manager or director with an investment of at least NT$1 million”

If you think your situation is more complex, you can also contact/use an immigration agency to help you (pick one in Taiwan because the number of international agencies who know about the gold card is probably close to nil). Also be aware that some try to sell you on investment schemes since that is good $$$ for them. However, it is most likely you can just self-apply for the gold card and go. I actually considered using an agency but I figured the extra layer of communication wouldn’t help, so I didn’t. Since you have so much time until fall 2021, I would check back in in early summer 2021, you can apply for the gold card, and then if visa-free is back by then, use gold card first, then have as your back-up, start off on visa free and then can try say entrepreneur visa.

If your aunt has experience hiring international workers she probably can help you with immigration thoughts too.

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Thanks for the very detailed reply!!

I am self-employed for many years now, is it possible to use income to qualify under economy when one simply has a US LLC and treats the profits as pass-through income? I was kinda assuming it would be contingent on a w2 or paystub. My business is real estate, so it isn’t like technology skill-based or anything else. (I realize this may be better suited for the gold card thread, may post there as well)

What do you think is “innovation capability?” That’s where I assume we have issue. Our business, should we establish one in Taiwan, would likely be either my wife’s coaching/consultancy practice or an investment fund that we start for venture capital investment into Taiwan startups. Either way doesn’t exactly offer prospect for innovation at least in the sense they are suggesting.

I don’t think my aunt’s business would ever have any reason to hire international workers into Taiwan. They probably have a few contractors around the world that they hire but that’s for doing business internationally. Their handful of employees in the country would certainly be locals. Does anyone have any insight into the process from a small business’ standpoint? I’d hate to mention this to my aunt if it’s a major ordeal cause I know she will run with it and do whatever she can and I really hope to not burden her if it isn’t absolutely necessary.

Yes, this sounds likely to be the best path!

The advice above is solid. Wait a bit, plan on using the gold card first, and use visa free (3-6 months in 2021) and considering the startup visa after that.

I have run into at least one consultancy use the Entrepreneur visa scheme (although tech related).

I think bottom line, what I want to communicate is that the process is a lot easier and you are a lot more likely to succeed than you might think.