The Nikkei Asia has an article noting how COVID and complicated visa rules have some foreigners both inside and outside Taiwan left in the lurch with no sign of when their situation will change, although an exemption was recently made for degree-seeking international students.
There are around 789,000 foreigners in Taiwan, the vast majority of whom need a work permit from the Department of Labor, a resident visa to enter Taiwan from the Bureau of Consular Affairs, and an alien resident certificate (ARC) from the National Immigration Agency to be able to work legally and re-enter the island. During the COVID pandemic, the ARC has become essential to be able to fly in and out.
Different classes of visas and work permits also come with an array of requirements e.g. cram school teachers require a different health check prior to receiving a work permit than a factory worker or a Chinese language-student. Spouses of visa-holders have their own health check while Gold Card applicants do not need one.
Switching between visa classes typically requires an individual to leave Taiwan and re-enter unless they are among its approximately 39,500 foreign professionals. They are the only foreigners who have the right to convert their visa on Taiwanese soil from a visitor visa or visa exemption to a residency visa once they obtain a work permit, although gold card holders enjoy more flexibility.
However, a respected China expert who was offered Taiwan’s prestigious gold card, a special resident permit reserved for expert professionals, but who’s family got locked out was quoted by the Nikkei Asia as saying:
“It seems to me Taiwan risks really losing out by not finding a point of flexibility within continued border restrictions… The frustrating things are the lack of clear communication about conditions for issuing visas and the apparent disconnect between the vigilance (against COVID-19) argument and the refusal to allow foreign nationals with a valid reason for being in Taiwan.”
The Nikkei Asia noted that much of relevant visa or COVID information is not available online in either Chinese or English, which has led to some nasty surprises even for people with job offers or university acceptance letters. An American lawyer was quoted as saying:
“There’s a real tendency in Taiwan where they don’t want to give the low-level civil servants who make these decisions about visa applications a whole lot of latitude. I think maybe in the past there were concerns about possible corruption, but these days it’s just felt they should have black and white lines they should operate in, so they make these strict, overly broad rules that are not public.”