Work Rules For English Teachers

There has been a rash of postings here related to deportations. Our office frequently gets questions about working in Taiwan, laws and related legalities.

We understand that the business has gotten more competitive over the past few months and people are aggressively seeking new and different schools all the time.

For example:

We don’t have a problem with this.

But ML McLean would like the English teachers understand the basics to working legally and preventing you from being deported. As many seem to know, there’s been heightened enforcement on the buxiban industry and English teachers, particularly in the Taipei/Taipei County areas.

Basic rules of thumb:
[color=red]You need a work permit to work in Taiwan[/color]
. What that means is anything that you do for a business, regardless of it paid or non-paid work, must be authorized by a work permit and must be on your work ARC.

1a. You can have multiple work permits on your ARC.

  1. Obtain all your paperwork from your employer. That means you are entitled to payslips and tax receipts. Employers must by law provide these documents to all employees (foreign or local).

There are others but these are the basics you must know when you deal with a buxiban owner who is asking you or if you are seeking additional employment. If you do not, you are by definition, breaking the law and risking deportation.

Deportation proceedings are difficult and stressful for both the employer buxiban owner and you the teacher. Be sure that the employer buxiban owner will protect himself and leave you to the mercy of the FAP. The FAP has no mercy; they will deport you and there is no appeal (technically, there is, but we understand that such appeals will be ultimately denied and do not know of any successful one)

Practically speaking for those in the chain schools, when you’re being asked to sub in a different location, be sure you let the school know that they are asking you to break the law and work illegally. Also let them know if they have precautions against police raids. If they do not, then our recommendation to you is to refuse the work. It is possible under our understanding that being there at the wrong place and the wrong time, may get you into trouble (e.g. you are visiting a school, near a classroom and a raid happens, you’re going to be into trouble)

For those who are looking on your own, the question of substitute work or privates, the latter is the safer route although no more legal than doing substitute work. However, FAP can’t raid private homes unless you were reported. If you are looking on your own and find other schools, then you have to get the work permit from the other school, otherwise, you’re working illegally.

Please distribute this widely and sticky this, admins.

Also worth pointing out that [color=red]
The address on your ARC and work permit must be the same address that you physically work at and it is the only address you’re allowed to work at.

Excellent post! Thanks a bunch!

Great idea for a thread ML McLean. I have added to this thread an excerpt from an article from the buxiban website that is in the same vein as this thread. The full article can be seen here. Hope it helps.

In light of a series of recent deportations of teachers for working illegally, it would seem prudent for us to warn foreign teachers in Taiwan to ensure that you are working legally. Any teacher who does any work for a school without a work permit for that school is working illegally and faces the potential of being caught by the foreign affairs police and deported. In cases where a teacher is found working illegally there seems to be little defence nor is there much chance that the deportation decision could be overturned. We each need to accept responsibility for our choices and actions here in Taiwan and in order to make the right choices it is important that teacher know what constitutes legal and illegal work.

In most cases foreign teachers who are working illegally do so by choice, but on occasion legitimate teachers get caught out through no fault of their own. In some cases schools will knowingly employ teachers illegally, while in other cases the schools themselves are totally oblivious to the fact that they have employed you illegally. If you are caught working illegally you will find that the buck stops with you and that the school can likely not help you much at all - despite what they may tell you. As such foreign teachers in Taiwan need to protect themselves by educating themselves.

Remember that if you don’t have a work permit for a position then you are working illegally. If you have been provided with an ARC then you are only entitled to work for the employer named on your ARC. Check to ensure that the Chinese employer name on your ARC is in fact the same Chinese business name of the school of company that you work for. You can do this by comparing the Chinese characters for the name of your employer on your ARC with the Chinese characters for the registered business name as per the certificate of registration on the wall of the school. If in doubt ask the school for clarification, and if you remain dissatisfied then contact the CLA for further information.

How do I know if a teaching position offered to me is legal or not?

There are a number of things to look for when attempting to determine whether or not a teaching position is legal.

The first clues pertain to you as a teacher. In order to be legally employed as a foreign English teacher in Taiwan you need to meet certain minimum criteria set by the government. If you do not meet these criteria then you cannot be legally employed as an English teacher in Taiwan. There are no exceptions and any job offer that suggests otherwise is likely to result in an illegal placement.

The criteria for employment of foreign English teachers include:

a) be from a native English speaking country which is determined by the central government of Taiwan to include citizens of Australia, Canada, the US, the UK, South Africa, and New Zealand.

b) hold a university degree of a Bachelors award or above. In some circumstances a college diploma plus TESOL certification may be accepted but there is little certainty in obtaining a position with these qualifications.

c) pass a medical test conducted here in Taiwan

d) be willing to sign at least a one year employment contract

Once you know that you can be legally employed as a foreign teacher, you need to determine whether or not a school that is offering you a position can legally do so. Things to look out for include:

  1. Kindergartens and preschools cannot offer legal work for foreign teachers so avoid these types of schools. There are no exceptions to this rule so please don’t accept offers to work with preschool aged children if you wish to work legally in Taiwan.

  2. Government elementary and high schools can only offer legal employment opportunities to foreign teachers under limited circumstances. In these cases teachers need to be qualified teachers with a degree in education and a teaching licence back home. If you cannot meet these academic requirements but are offered a position in a government school then that position is most likely illegal.

  3. New schools less than 12 months old are unlikely to be able to offer legal work so stick with more established institutions.

  4. A legal school will have a certificate of business registration hung on a wall in a public area of the school, most likely in the lobby or behind the front counter. This certificate will be in Chinese and will contain the legal name of the school which may have no relationship to the English trading name of the school. In the case of chain schools which largely operate under an English name and its phonetic translation, each school within the chain will be a seperately registered business entity. Even if the schools have the same owner each school is a seperate legal entity and this will be confirmed by the name on the certificate of business registration.

  5. In order to be able to employ you legally, each and every school that you work for must apply for a work permit for you to work with them regardless of the number of hours they are offering you. In order to obtain a work permit for you to work with them the school must produce a Chinese language contract stating that you will be working for them for at least 14 hours per week. If you are employed to work for less than this then you are most likely either working illegally, or the school has provided the government with a Chinese language contract that differs from what you understand the contract to contain.

  6. All other foreign teachers working at the school should have valid ARC’s on them. Ask to see an ARC from one of the teachers at the school (under the auspicies of wanting to see what an ARC looks like). If no foreign staff are able to produce ARC’s then this may be a concern.

  7. It is now illegal for foreign teachers to conduct demonstration classes in front of real students when applying for work. If you find yourself in a classroom with students for any reason prior to your work permit application being submitted then you are vulnerable to being deported.

After finding a school that can legally employ you, you need to determine whether or not you are working legally. Below are a few clues in determining whether or not the work offered to you is legal work:

  1. If your contract involves work with preschool aged children then you are not working legally.

  2. If your contract involves work at more than one location then you may not be working legally. This holds true even if the schools are part of a chain that operate under the same trading name. You need to ensure that each place of work is legally entitled to employ you, and can provide you with a work permit. The registered business name of each employer must be added to your ARC and this can only be done once each of them has obtained a work permit to employ you.

  3. If your employer is not deducting tax from your salary upfront then you may not be working legally. Your employer is required by law to undertake pre-tax deductions from your wages.

  4. If you are being offered less than 14 hours of work per week then you may not be working legally.

What can I do if I suspect that I am working illegally?

If you find out or suspect that you are working illegally then you may like to contact the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) for advice and clarification. This is the government body that is charged with issuing work permits for foreign teachers and they maintain records of who is working where and for whom. They also handle worker/employer disputes and will be able to advise you if you are working illegally and want to change to a legal position.

What can happen if I am caught working illegally?

If you are caught working illegally then you may be fined and deported from Taiwan with a period of time for which you cannot return. In most cases the Foreign Affairs Police (FAP) will interview you and ask you to sign a statement. This statement is often written in Chinese and most people would be understandably concerned about the content of the Chinese written on that document. If you are not absolutely certain about what is written on the document you would be unwise to sign it. A compromise can be for you to write a statement in English and sign that. Although some people escape deportation after signing such a document, others find that they are allowed to go only to find out weeks or months later that they are to leave the country. In most cases deportations consist of you being given a date before which you must leave the country and this date is generally within two weeks of the date of the notice of the deportation. If you did not leave the country by this date then you may be arrested, incarcerated, fined, and/or forcibly deported.

What are the repercussions of deportation?

If you are deported from Taiwan for working illegally, you may find that you are unable to obtain a visa to return to Taiwan for a defined period of time which may be up to five years. In most cases though, deported individuals are able to obtain a visa to return to Taiwan as a visitor, but this visa often comes with special conditions such as being single entry, non-extendable, and stamped with ‘No work permitted’. Additionally, deported individuals can generally not obtain landing visas (visa free entry) for a period of time after their deportation.

Can I appeal a deportation order that is based upon me being caught working illegally?

Deportation orders are administrative matters conducted at the discretion of the Foreign Affairs Police (FAP) and based upon the Immigration Act and other relevant legislation. There is no judicial process involved and as such no judgement needs to be entered into for a foreign national to be deported from Taiwan.

You do however have the right to appeal a deportation order and in most cases the CLA and FAP will extend your visa to enable you to remain in Taiwan while your appeal is being heard. It is however very unlikely that a deportation order would be overturned if it could be shown that you were in fact in breach of the terms of your visa for being in Taiwan, and in fact there is no record of a foreign teacher having ever had a deportation based upon illegal work being overturned.

Quite clearly prevention is key as there is no cure!

Our advice is to not work illegally in Taiwan unless you are willing to accept the repercussions if caught.

Thank you brian for this post! That is one of the clearest statements posted to date. There should be no or less confusion after this post.


What if a person has a JFRV?
Is this person allowed to teach at kindergartens?
Also, what if he/she is
caught, will they be deported or fined?

What about Happy Marian?

Foreign teachers are teaching preschool- aged children and they do it right in front of the police. What’s going on?

Guan xhi.
But don’t be fooled by the fact that some can get away with it. Also don’t be suprised if the winds of change shift, soon those teachers might be out too.
The only way to be sure is to follow the regulations.

Great post Brian.

There really isn’t much to add to your very well thought out post.
However, there are two items I would like to bring up which are relevant in this thread.

  1. Everyone works illegally when they first start teaching here in Taiwan. They arrive on their 60 day visitor’s visa and begin working before their ARC is in process.
    I know that many people have suggested waiting until they have an ARC or going abroad to get a work permit. These are great suggestions and I wish they were practical. The fact of the matter, unfortunately, is that almost no schools will agree to this. They want teachers and they want them now.

  2. GOVERNMENT schools break the law all the time. Government schools hire part time teachers and teachers without the proper Education degree. It’s extremely hypocritical of the government to then crackdown on other private schools.

Personally, I’m beginning to think that the system is so chaotic that we are all in danger. We can discuss all we want what would work right in an idealistic world. However, the reality is that the vast majority of foreigners work illegally in some form here in Taiwan. Many of them don’t have a choice. They would lose their job if they asked their schools to follow the law.

I’m beginning to think the best course of action is to try and change some of these laws for the better. Perhaps we can create a committee of some sort and attempt to tell the government that we WANT to help. We WANT to understand the rules and perhaps alter them for the betterment of everyone.

I love Taiwan very much. I respect this culture immensely and love the people here. I think foreigners generally don’t respect the incredible life we are given here. However, what is going on with these deportations is embarrassing for this country. I do think we need to find ways to change this system.

Firstly, thanks guys this is a great help.

Just one more question.

I heared that when you are deported you get a big dirty stamp in your passport saying so. Does anyone know if this is true? If so what effect will it have on traveling to other countries?

Absolutely true. I’d say 99.9% of all English teachers are in this group. How many English teachers here have seen (or been told, haha) their school submit the work permit paper before working? If you worked before that happened, you were/are working illegally.

What this situation presents is an opportunity to move things to a point where either the government or the buxiban industry come to an understanding of sorts. Meanwhile, it’s important for us to really educate the English teachers of what the situation is. Our hope is that will help put pressure on the industry, or at least individual schools to figure out something. If the supply of teachers dries up, their cash flow dries up. They’ll start to scream.

I believe this is the proper strategy to follow through. Foreigners have no position vis-a-vis the government and frankly, they’re quite hostile in many obvious and non-obvious ways. So doing a direct pitch to them wouldn’t be the best way. Take it to the folks who will be hurt the most, the buxiban guys because their business will be directly threatened.

One example is,
Teacher(T): I heard this is the law and that there’s police raids. My friends and colleagues are being deported. Am I legal?
Owner(O): Yes, yes, of course you are.
T: Can I see your work permit and a date for when my ARC is coming through? (For the case in which you are still waiting for your ARC)
O: Uh, uh (at which point the owner can get very belligerent with you because you just caught him with his pants down)
T: If I don’t see it, I’m working illegally and I don’t want to break the law. I will check and report to the Council of Labor Affairs about my status and your school.

I like Taiwan and want to stay and work here but not as a criminal.
O: doh doh (stammers)

At which point, your buxiban boss will be crapping so hard in his pants, who knows what exactly he will do.

But people, this is exactly what you need to be doing. Firstly, it shows the buxiban owner that you’re not ignorant and cannot be taken advantage of. That will shock most buxiban owners speechless because they think they’re all slick and take advantage of you and the situation. But you will be popping their bubble.

Secondly, you put yourself on the high road, you’re afraid, you don’t want to break the law and you’re asking (really threatening in a nice way) the buxiban owner that he needs to get his act together or else his whole business can go down the tubes with one phone call (actually two, because you also need to call in the tax guys, then the gig is all up).

Thirdly, knowing your rights is the first step to protecting yourself and defending your rights.

If the teachers at the above schools simply follow the script I laid out above, you’ll see a mass reaction. If this is true and that most of the raids are being conducted against privates, then this is important information (don’t know what it means at the moment but gives us a line of inquiry to take).

One tiredcanadiangirl posted her story. I’m shocked to know that the teacher/owner helped rat them out. If true, I suspect that her school was reported by either another school or an unhappy person with knowledge of that school. Owners don’t easily just give up their teachers (4 of them!!!).

The system is chaotic. There is no rule of law here. There’s positives and negatives to that. Now given this is the playing field we have, there are tactics one can use to play the system to get what you want. ML McLean is one such resource that can help the foreigner level the playing field. They know the games and the system and how to work it.

This will take longer but the message definitely needs to get at that level. There’s the frontal assault method or there’s the backdoor channel method. Both can be used depending on the situation. Changing the system isn’t so easy around here and it’ll take a long while.

At the very least, the buxiban owners/industry need to know that there’s a volatile situation going on now. Either they get together and talk about it together with the government or it’s going to degenerate into total chaos soon, every school for themselves. There’s the schools, the teachers and the government all fighting it out. The teachers are stuck in the middle but that’s not really a bad place to be because in the end, the teacher still has the “I’m going to the government to help me because I don’t want to be illegal and a criminal in Taiwan. There are Taiwan laws for foreigners” excuse. Unscrupulous buxiban owners have no way to get around this, they’ll either shape up or have their business die for lack of teachers.

This only works I think if most of the English teachers get on board with this program. It won’t work as well if some of the teachers look the other way and willingly work illegally, then the ones who are trying to be legal, may be out of a job. In which case, do you report them and their school?

A lot of questions to a very complex issue.

I agree that the best way to deal with the situation is for teachers to educate themselves. That way you know right from wrong, and you can quote the legislation when necessary if your school is doing something wrong.

I am not suggesting that you need to quote the law for every little infraction, nor am I suggesting that teachers alienate themselves by getting on their high horse. Suggesting to your school that they are employing you illegally is not an easy thing to do and we really shouldn’t need to do it, but until such time as the government tidies things up this is all that we can do. Be diplomatic and non-confrontational and you will probably acheive a lot more than yelling and screaming. Finally, if all else fails contact the CLA. I get the impression that the more of us who call them with enquiries the more likely they are likely to act if only to stop these bloody foreigners from calling all the time!

This is not quite correct.

It is true that you cannot legally work on a visitors visa, but you can start to work legally prior to receiving your ARC provided that your work permit application is with the CLA. This hasn’t always been the case as under the MOE it was not permitted, but the CLA seem more progressive in some ways and seem to acknowledge that we can’t sit around for a month waiting for our paperwork to be processed. I can personally attest to all of this as I have been through the process myself, and it is stated within the governments own processing procedures and I have posted on this forum before.

As Yellow Cartman points out however there is every possibility that the school could claim that your work permit is with the CLA when in fact it isn’t, thereby giving you a false sense of security.

I think that this is where the problem lies. If a school or employer misleads a foreign teacher either intentionally or unintentionally and we can prove this, then it seems to me that we should be immune to any repercussions and instead the school can be punished. I am certainly not ant-school but until schools are held more accountable for their actions I don’t expect to see much change in the situation.

I suggest that teachers try to get things in writing as much as possible. I know that it is awkward but it can make the difference between you getting deported or not so is probably worth the trouble. If the school tells you that your work permit has been submitted then ask them to write that down for you with the date that it was submitted and the date that you should expect to get it back etc.

I agree that this is a problem. The problem largely stems from the fact that provincial education authorities may not know or may not care what the central education authority states about this issue. So provincial governments may allow foreign teachers to teach in their schools, unfortunately they can offer no legal protection should you be caught and face a deportation. The central government overrides the provincial government and therefore we need to follow the edicts of the central government.

Of course a newbie to Taiwan (as well as a fair share of long term locals - non-forumosan’s of course) are unlikely to be aware of all of this. This is why education is the key.

Please refer to this Another DEPORTATION! for additional information on this issue.

Particularly for when you are caught, what to do next?

Great stuff guys.

To Brian- I know that you can work on your 60 day visitor’s visa while the paperwork process has been initiated. As you said, there is no way for the foreigner to know if it has. Whether the foreigner works for a day or over a month before this process is started- they are clearly working for some period of time illegally. My point is only that everyone has worked illegally at some point and what is happening concerns all of us.

Also, there is the entire problem of schools setting up a dummy school in order to have more foreigners work at their school. If they set up this school at a different address than the school (as is usually the case), then the teacher is working illegally.

I think putting pressure on government institutions is the key here. I encourage everyone to write letters to the Taipei Times and China Post at, respectively.

Additionally, you can call the Ministry of Education at 02-2356-6051. The Ministry of the Interior can be reached at 02-2356-5000.
The International Community Support Hotline at 08-0002-4111 is run by the government and another good place to lodge complaints.

My suggestion is that everyone who reads this, please take 5 minutes out of your day to write a letter to these newspapers. Then take 1 minute to call the three numbers above and let them know that you feel this treatment of foreigners is unacceptable. Finally, print this email out and have 5 of your friends do the same thing.

This could happen to any of us and it’s important to let people know how we feel. Taiwan is a wonderful place and all of us have had great experiences working here. I think we have a respsonsibility to try and preserve that for future teachers. It seems this is a small portion of the government who probably doesn’t even realize the repercussions of their actions. Taiwan loves foreigners and wouldn’t deliberately treat us in such a way. Pick up the phone, write an email and let your views be known.

Taiwaner I agree with your sentiments and also your suggestion that we all need to let the powers that be know that we are dissatisfied with the current situation. I do think however that it is important to ensure that what we put out there is accurate.

That is correct.

I assume that there is some form of receipt provided to the school when they submit your documentation so if your school is claiming that they have submitted your documents but you suspect that they haven’t then ask to see the receipt.

Additionally you could call the CLA yourself to check that they have received your paperwork.

Neither of these should be necessary in most cases, but if you are suspicious of the school then there are ways to check to ensure that your work permit is being processed and that you are working legally.

I don’t agree with this.

In most cases schools are legit and do things appropriately. As in every situation there is a minority group that gives the majority a bad name.

A legit school will interview you, copy the relevant documents, put these together with your health certificate and send these off all within the course of a day or two. You can then start working legally, and in most cases this is exactly what happens. So in most cases foreign teachers do actually start out working legally.

Of course some schools are slack in getting the paperwork to the CLA, other times schools need to wait for the foreign teacher to get their part of the paperwork in order. Finally there is a very small minority of schools that will lie and say that the documents have been submitted when the school has no intention of submitting these as they are not licenced to employ foreigners anyway. It is this latter group that we should be exposing by way of comments posted here at Forumosa and at naming the school and alerting potential future teachers to these problems.

I am not so sure that this is common place.

What is common is for schools that don’t qualify to employ foreign teachers to find a company that does and have your work permit and ARC issued through that other company. These documents are all totally legit, but they are no value to you as the foreign teacher as they are only valid for work at that other company. They do not entitle you to work for the actual company that you are working for. This is the manner in which the majority of foreign teachers unwittingly find themselves working illegally, and is something that teachers should bring to everyones attention by naming the schools and recruiters who do this with posts on forumosa and

I think we are pretty much agreeing here.

If a school hires someone, they generally start right away. I’d estimate most schools take a week to secure the passport, diploma, etc. they need to apply for an ARC. Some take longer and some do it right away.
The point is that almost everyone is working illegally on their 60 day visa, even if it is only for one day.

That concerns everyone.

This is the part that I don’t really agree with.

I assume that you are working off the assumption that people start working the day after the interview. While I am sure that this happens, I am not sure that it is the norm.

A newbie can do the health check as soon as they arrive and while they are still looking for work. The health check takes 10 days to come back, and I think that a two week job search would not be unusual so it is unlikely that a teacher would find a job and start working prior to the health check coming back provided that they had made arrangements for the health check early on.

Once the job has been found the teacher needs to hand the school the health check, a copy of the degree, and a copy of each page of the passport. The school adds to this their paperwork and that can theoretically be sent on to the CLA that day or the next day. Once the CLA receives the paperwork the teacher can legally start to work. In a case where both parties have their acts together this could mean that the teacher could start working legally within a couple of days of the interview. I understand that things may not happen that quickly, but it is certainly not impossible.

I would agree that some people certainly do begin working illegally whether they know it or not and I am not trying to split hairs, I just believe that it is somewhat misleading to suggest that ‘everyone’ or ‘almost everyone’ is required to work illegally in the beginning. To state this suggests that the system requires this to happen, when I don’t believe that this is the case.

I’ve never been a teacher, but it seems to me from reading some of these threads that more and more very young teachers are being hired from overseas, arriving here, being picked up at the airport and driven to their school, often in remoter towns, put into a school-rented apartment and starting work basically the next day.

I would say there needs to be some kind of method by which such people could be made aware of the risk they’re unwittingly running. The agents and the schools certainly don’t seem to give a damn about this, at least according to many of the accounts I’ve read here.

Brian, I certainly don’t have statistics on this. However, I am willing to wager that well over 90% of teachers begin working before their paperwork has begun. Just my opinion, but I think it is an accurate one. I’m not trying to be misleading, rather I’m attempting to represent the situation as it actually is rather than in theory. You are correct that not “everyone” has to work illegally. However, In the real world most do.

My overall point, I suppose, is that the system is broken. Previously, when it was a “Don’t ask don’t tell” situation, it didn’t matter that people starting working illegally for a day or few weeks while the ARC was being processed. Perhaps this latest crackdown will blow over. I hope it does. However, my belief is that we should seek permanent and real changes in the system.

Let’s change the system to work on keeping out the fake degrees, illegal teachers, malcontents and non-native speakers. Let’s have a system that attracts the best and most qualified teachers to Taiwan. This would be better for everyone. Most importantly the Taiwanese students.

[quote=“Taiwaner”]Let’s change the system to work on keeping out the fake degrees, illegal teachers, malcontents and non-native speakers.[/quote]

Well I guess that’s a pretty broad stereotyping.

What do you proprose to find out who these people are? Maybe we should just include South Africaners and French first language Canadians for starters? Then we could remove the Irish and UK drunks and the dope heads:noway: :noway:

Wouldn’t leave us a lot left to teach with lol :smiley: :smiley:

What does not speaking English as a first language have to do with the ability to teach it? Plenty of universities around the world hire non native speakers to teach English in English speaking countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK… :loco: :loco: