What are you allowed to do without a work permit?

The Employment Service Act states in Art. 43 that

除本法另有規定外,外國人未經雇主申請許可,不得在中華民國境內工作。

but does not define work. The Council of Labor Affairs (predecessor to the Ministry of Labor) clarified in 2005 in an interpretation letter (勞職外字第0940503946號函) that an activity does not require a formal contract or even payment to qualify as work, though it also said volunteer work in accordance with the Volunteer Service Act does not require a work permit.

In 2015, the Ministry of Labor issued another interpretation letter (104年11月3日勞動發管字第1040513517號函) that clarified the definition of volunteer work. There was a discussion here (thanks to @Feiren and Forward Taiwan).

In 2018, the MOL issued a new interpretation letter (勞動發管字第1070507378號函), which explains that the government now recognizes that some activities other than volunteer work should not be deemed work for purposes of Art. 42 to 44 of the Employment Service Act.

There are five categories:

  • business activities (商務行為)
  • academic internship or research activities (課程實習或研修行為)
  • “supportive services” (輔助性服務行為 – basically volunteer work)
  • “friendly” activities (一般聯誼行為)
  • other activities that are not performed for the purpose of providing labor to any local entity and do not negatively affect the employment opportunities of citizens (其他非為境內任何人提供勞務為目的,且無妨礙本國人就業機會之行為)

There are examples given for each category, followed by criteria for determining whether or not an activity qualifies. The main theme is that these activities should not affect the local labor market. Another recurring theme is to avoid money changing hands, though this does not apply in all cases.

Some of the activities are only legal if you have a work permit (i.e. if you have a work permit for your regular job, you do not need an extra permit to do certain other things, but if you are a tourist you cannnot do those things).

Many people reading this will be interested in what the letter says about online activities, so here it is in full (item 3 in the fifth category).

(三)非持工作許可之外國人,自營從事網路拍賣或從事販售物品之行為(如擺地攤販售物品)。但不包含提供勞務之行為(如為他人按摩或教授語文之行為)。

The example given of permissible online activity is selling or auctioning goods, but this does not include the “provision of labor” (提供勞務), and the examples of provision of labor given here are massage service and language teaching. :face_with_raised_eyebrow: There is also a caveat about not violating the purpose of one’s visa (specifically with reference to the Social Order Maintenance Act, which is largely concerned with sex and violence), repeating the prohibition on “provision of labor”.

3、以非持工作許可之外國人為限(至外國人是否與來華 簽證目的相違,應由主管機關依其來華簽證及居停留目的、社會秩序維護法及其他有關法令規定處理)。又該自營工作行為不包含提供勞務之行為。

So, despite the letter’s talk of modernization and globalization, it looks like the government is not eager (unlike some countries) to welcome digital nomads. :desert_island: :slightly_frowning_face:

It should be noted that some people – mainly foreign spouses and permanent residents – were already and remain exempt from the requirement for a work permit, as long as they follow the proper procedures (discussed in other threads).

Thanks again to @tando for bringing the 2018 letter to our attention.

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This is very useful information for me. It is important in that if you have my example, where I would have a work visa, and my wife would have a dependant visa - she then could run her shop online selling without a work visa? I will definitely have to look into this more, but it sure looks like that is the case.

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Thank you for your information @yyy As someone who operates a youtube channel, does this mean I would be in the clear? Since I’m not providing ‘labor’ to the local market?

Also, I found this from this article:
https://taiwantoday.tw/news.php?post=23767&unit=12%2C29%2C33

the Ministry of Labor’s Workforce Development Agency clarifies that, “If a foreigner works for an employer outside Taiwan, no work permit is needed.”

However, this article is from 2015 and it’s well… an article… So I’m wondering if there is a more official source on this.

I searched here in forumosa but the information seems a bit varied and hard to get a clear answer. So just wondering if anyone here has any updated information if running a youtube (american company) channel in taiwan would be grounds for deportation. I understand the chances of getting caught would be slim, but I just want to have my bases covered.
(have ARC but not yet APRC)

What’s your ARC based on?

I would like to say it’s fine (assuming you’re not conducting online lessons or producing erotica), but it’s not explicitly addressed in the information I’ve seen, so my advice is to ask a lawyer or the MOL itself.

MOL contact forms:

https://po.mol.gov.tw/

If you do ask them, please let us know what they say. :slightly_smiling_face:

See also:

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Does that mean a foreigner could legally sell things on Shopee or Facebook Marketplace? I don’t mean their old bicycle, but maybe bring stuff in from another country. Or cook and sell food?

That’s a good question for the MOL.

according to the statement, although i only have dependant spouse arc to husband (foreighn student) and willing to “work” as reseach assistant with taiwanese professor then i can do it without work permit ?

you provide labor (提供勞務), so you need a work permit, iiuc. you or your professor may ask to WDA, or MOE in your case?

Have you read the details for category two, 課程實習或研修行為?

Thanks Tando for finding another official statement on this topic.

https://laws.mol.gov.tw/FLAW/FLAWDOC03.aspx?datatype=etype&N2=11005117021&cnt=1&now=1&lnabndn=0&recordno=1

This 2021 letter, 勞動發管字第11005117021號函, starts out by recapping what we already know from earlier in this thread and then briefly looks at eight scenarios involving a fictional Indonesian called 小明. (Go to the PDF link at the bottom of the page to read the scenarios.) It keeps referring back to the 2018 letter and making the point that whether or not an activity is acceptable without a work permit depends on the details. For example, scenario #8 asks whether or not 小明 can be paid for appearing on screen or on stage. The response:

移工小明受邀擔任電影或電視或戲劇等角色,尚須視拍攝內容及擔任角色等,若其符合 107 年 11 月 27 日函釋附表五(七)要件,參與移工議題紀錄片拍攝及角色,則非屬本法第 43 條規範之範疇。

To paraphrase, it’s acceptable if it conforms with the criteria of category #5, subcategory #7 in the 2018 letter, which gave the example of appearing in a documentary about foreign workers and pointed out that it doesn’t affect the local labor market, even if there’s some form of payment.

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What a very specific and limited example.
But a naturalized Taiwanese who once was a foreign worker could argue that he would fit the job description… affecting his labor chances.

I feel such things can be argued either way.
A foreigner making a similar case can’t be sure if his job will be determined to affect local labor.
It’s ambiguous.

Or is it that affected would be a minority of Taiwanese and it is only worth protecting if most Taiwanese labor force is affected.

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It’s simple, really. If you’re employed by an employer in Taiwan, or if you’re paid by a customer in Taiwan for a service rendered in Taiwan, then you need either a work permit (from that specific employer) or open work rights. Otherwise, you don’t.