Visa runs and FBI checks during coronavirus period

Slightly off-topic question I’d like to throw out there to people more informed than I (I’ve been following this thread for the last several thousand posts, but this is my first post here).

I need to make a visa run next week. I’m currently here on a 90-day visa exemption and have been in the process of applying for an Employment Gold Card since December, but just found out a couple of days ago that due to some unexpected delay with the processing of my application it’s very unlikely it’ll be completed before my current permission to stay expires. I therefore need to leave Taiwan before approximately February 15 (need to check the exact date since I’m not sure how they count the 90 days in Taiwan, but that’s another story), despite my lack of enthusiasm about flying around Asia at the moment.

Given the current situation, where would people suggest as the best (/least bad) place to go for a couple of days? My thinking is that the main criteria would be (i) relatively few coronavirus cases, (ii) a single direct flight, ideally short, (iii) a warmer climate (I’m guessing that reduces the transmission rate, although I don’t know whether that’s been confirmed yet; anyway, I wouldn’t object to seeing some sun and a blue sky), (iv) a low probability of having my flights cancelled and/or being refused entry to the destination country and/or Taiwan, and (v) decent healthcare and general cleanliness/control measures. Cost is also an issue, but not crucial.

Needless to say, I’ve already ruled out China, HK, and Macau, for obvious reasons. I’ve also tentatively ruled out the Philippines on the basis of points (iv) and (v) (I know that Taiwan isn’t currently included in the Philippines’ travel ban, but I’m not sure if/when that could change, and the healthcare system isn’t great). I’ve considered South Korea but somehow don’t particularly fancy that option much (I’ve never been there before, and this isn’t really a time I want to start exploring a completely unfamiliar place). I’m not sure about Japan (e.g., Okinawa).

At the moment, my #1 option is KL or possibly somewhere else in Malaysia like Kota Kinabalu (warm climate, not so many cases yet AFAIK, and I’m familiar with the city). My #2 option would be Chiang Mai in Thailand (similar reasons, and I used to live there). Do those seem like reasonable options, or would people suggest somewhere else? (I’m British, by the way, in case that’s relevant.)

Better pick somewhere close by in case you have to swim back. All kidding aside I did a visa run to Okinawa once and it was not expensive and although sleepy it was a fun enough visa run trip.

Takes bout an hour to fly there and an hour back. Naha , the capital has nice hotels that are not expensive .

There’s not a lot to do outside of a beach resort (useless in winter) but hey its a visa run right?

visiting the two places you are already familiar with is a good idea too, but Japan has closer ties with Taiwan and won’t willy nilly cancel flights between the two countries due to so many Japanese tourists visiting Taiwan.

don’t take a bus tour as its nearly a whole day and its all in japanese and supremely boring. IF you have an international license you can rent a car and since they drive on the same side as they do in the UK you should be quite familiar.

Japan is like a nicer Taiwan, it doesn’t feel that foreign to me.


For public health, Thailand would be one of the last places I’d try for a visa run. They’ve basically kept the door wide open to visitors from the PRC. Draw your own conclusions.

The awful cruise ship situation off the coast of Yokohama is for me not a reason to avoid Japan. They didn’t let passengers disembark.

Hope you can work this out!


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I’d ask immigration to extend or renew your visa without leaving, worst they can say is no.


You don’t need to leave as long as you’ve already submitted your documents. Just go and tell immigration, they’ll give you permission to stay in the country.


They did this for 911 and SARS.

Thanks for your suggestion. Yes, I’d also been considering Okinawa actually - I went there once a few years ago as well. It’s a good point you make about Japan and Taiwan being less likely to cancel flights - I hadn’t thought of that.

I suppose the thing that put me off about Okinawa was that last time I went (also in February) it was quite drizzly and grey, and I found it both a bit dull and moderately expensive compared with other options like KL. I did plan to travel around a bit last time (I read they have some nice castles etc. further north), but the weather really put me off that idea. I should probably keep Okinawa in mind though, you’re right.

Fair point about public health. Although Chiang Mai actually has decent hospitals, especially compared to, say, the Philippines. And as far as I’m aware, the number of reported cases in Chiang Mai is still relatively small (most of them seem to be further south, like Bangkok). Although that could of course just be because they haven’t been doing much testing.

The downside about Chiang Mai (although I love the city) would be that I have a lot of friends there so would probably be obligated to be more sociable rather than just spending most of the time by myself. The upsides include that it’s quite warm (>32°C at the moment) and apparently it’s still possible to buy face masks there (I was thinking to bring a small number back if possible), compared to, say, Taiwan/Korea/Japan.

Good suggestion - I’d also thought about this. I’m from the UK so could in principle extend my current exemption for another 90 days. The problem with this is that, as far as I’m aware (based on a previous conversion with BOCA), if my application for the gold card is subsequently approved, I wouldn’t be able to complete the process and change my purpose of stay without leaving and coming back anyway - it’s apparently not possible at all to change the purpose of stay on the extended exemption. So I would essentially just be delaying the need to leave Taiwan for perhaps a month, and who knows what the situation will be like by then…?

It’s probably also a bit late to be applying for the extension now (you’re apparently supposed to give them a couple of weeks, but they seemed pretty flexible and understanding when I discussed this with them last time).


I’m not sure this is true actually, at least in my case. I think you might be thinking of the regular ARC/work permit situation, once all documents have been submitted. :slight_smile:

I submitted everything for the gold card in December but my application is still under initial review by the Ministry of Labor (they seem to have overlooked it and hadn’t done anything until I chased them up about it earlier this week), and hasn’t even been passed further down the chain of government departments yet. I also need to get some supporting documents from China notarized (which they’ve only told me about now), so I’m not sure how that’s going to work at the moment. The guy at the NIA I was speaking to about this also reminded me (in a friendly way) that I definitely needed to leave Taiwan before my current exemption expires…so it really seems I have no choice here.

Is it documents issued by public authorities in China?

Partly, yes. It’s a Chinese postdoctoral certificate (issued by a university) and a Chinese patent (issued by the National Intellectual Property Administration), and possibly a recommendation letter from my former supervisor there (a professor at a university, who happens to be an Austrian national). I’m not sure whether I’ll do the letter as it doesn’t really add much to the application in my opinion (it predates my employment there and I’m not sure this is something I can get notarized). Apparently I need to go to the Straits Exchange Foundation for the other stuff, which I’m intending to do tomorrow.

Why do you ask? :slight_smile:

So I could give you helpful advice :innocent: Anyway it looks like you are on it already, yea the straights exchange people will tell you what to do.

(generally the process is to get it notarized in the public notary in China first, and at that time request for them to send it to the cross straights bodies.) bit of a pain unless you have a contact to go to the notary in China for you. on the positive side its reliable, and once through the cross straight bodies no one ever questions the validity of the document.

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Thanks for your help! But…is that really the process? :worried: I’ve never needed to do this before, but my initial concern was that it would require a lot of cross-strait communication, which would be a hassle at the moment given that a lot of universities etc. are closed. (My former supervisor told me a couple of days ago that he’s still in another province from CNY and won’t even be thinking about going back to the university for 2-3 weeks.)

I then got the (possibly optimistic) impression from what I’d read online that the SEF was able to verify documents essentially while you wait. I thought/hoped it might be a situation where they essentially just look at the document, give it some stamp, and demand a lot of money from me for the ink. Was that too hopeful of me? :grimacing:

In my experience It was as I described, but I guess you will find out if I am wrong tomorrow. Best of luck!

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You should go see immigration they will tell you. They told me that if I left the country before my application was finalised it would be cancelled. Seriously the people processing the applications are beyond crap, it took me 5 months, when I went to the bureau and pressed them after the first two months as to why it was talking so long, they said sorry it seems we put your application in a spam folder by accident and it hasn’t been looked at yet. You have to really push them along and visit where they process the applications numerous times.


Thanks for that. Are you actually talking about the gold card application then? What you describe sounds similar to what happened to me - after 6 weeks it took me pushing several people in various departments to finally hear that they considered some documentation missing (partly this was the lack of notarization of the Chinese documents, but also something else they’d apparently overlooked).

This is what the NIA guy told me a couple of days ago: “Last but not least, please be noted that applicant who entered Taiwan by visa free program shall leave the country within the duration stay of visa free program given the ARC or Gold Card not being acquired before overstay.”

If you are referring to the gold card application, where did you hear that about leaving the country? NIA, MOL, MOST, or someone else? I’m also planning to go to BOCA tomorrow to find out exactly when I need to leave, so could go and check with another department around the same time.

In general visa free can be extended to a visitor visa, if you are in the process of establishing residency based on a white collar job. Lots of people have done it. Dunno about the gold card though, I guess that is new. (I think this discussion is out of place in the virus thread now.)

If I was you I would stop off at the national immigration agency and ask. Which it sounds like you did do, but anyway.

Yeah, you’re right. I was told previously by BOCA that the visitor visa from the extended visa exemption couldn’t then be changed to an ARC, and assume it’s the same with the gold card.

Yes, we should shut up about this now. :sweat_smile: Unless someone else has some bright idea for visa run destinations haha. Thanks everyone for the help.

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I changed a visa free into a visitor visa and then into an ARC twice. But it was NIA both times. Never had to call to BOCA.

Probably just continue it in the Gold card thread?

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