Interested in moving to Taiwan? Here’s what you need to know:
Taiwan: Quick Facts
- Taiwan is a small island country in East Asia (Western Pacific), with a population of 23.9 million. Has a total area of 35,980 km² (13,892 mi²).
- Originally known as Formosa, Taiwan was occupied by aboriginal people until the late 17th century, when ethnic Chinese began to settle the island. Ruled by Japan from 1895 until 1945, when Japan surrendered the island to the ROC (Republic of China). After the takeover of mainland China by the Communist Party in 1949, the ROC established its government in Taiwan. Even today, only a few countries recognize Taiwan as an independent nation.
- The Taiwanese aboriginals belong to Austronesian peoples, with genetic and linguistic ties to other Austronesian groups from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Polynesia and Oceania. Today, there are 14 major tribes with a total population of ~530,000.
- Nicknames for Taiwan include: Ilha Formosa (“Beautiful Island” in Portuguese) and bǎodǎo (“Treasure island”).
- In economic terms, Taiwan is known as one of the “Four Asian Tigers” (along with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore) for its rapid industrialization and exceptionally hight growth rates from the 1960′s to the 90′s. While the 1997 and 2008 financial crises had significant impacts on Taiwan, the country has since rebounded.
- Taiwan’s main industry is high tech, with electronics and information technology accounting for 35% of industrial activity.
- Currency: New Taiwan Dollar (NTD).
- Spoken languages: the official language is Taiwanese Mandarin. Taiwanese Minnan (73.3%) is the most popular local dialect, particularly in southern part of the island; other dialects are Hakka (12%) and Taiwanese aboriginal languages (1.7%).
- Major religions: Buddhist (35%), Taoist (33.0%), Yi Guan Dao (3.5%), and Protestant (2.6%).
- Major races: Han Chinese (98%), Taiwanese Aborigines (2%).
- Largest cities: New Taipei City, Taipei City (capital), Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung.
Why move to Taiwan
- Cost of living is relatively low (compared to that of neighbouring countries such as Japan, China, and/or Korea).
- Great food is affordable and available round the clock. One is never too far away from a local “Night Market” (open until 2 AM in major cities). 24-Hour convenience stores are just about everywhere, too.
- Taiwan is known for gender equality – females are treated fairly, and have no issues advancing in the workforce. Women’s rights are taken seriously.
- Taiwan is known as one of the friendliest Asian countries. While not every Taiwanese person speaks English, most are friendly, welcoming, and willing to help out others. Travelers and immigrants tend to feel welcome here.
- There is a strong focus on education. The country’s major cities are home to some world-class universities, and there are even courses available in English. Tuition is relatively cheap (by Western standards), and a number of grants, scholarships and loans are available for foreign nationals.
- Taiwan offers stunning and diverse natural settings – while the country is small, there is no shortage of rivers, mountains, and plains to explore. As it is situated on a major tectonic plate boundary, Taiwan is a fascinating place for geologists and researchers.
- Taiwan has a good medical system and every person is entitled to healthcare; many procedures and medical treatments (including for plastic/cosmetic purposes) are affordable.
- Located in the subtropical region, Taiwan boasts average temperatures of 22 – 30 C (72 – 86 F) year round.
- Life is action-packed in the major cities, and there is always something exciting to do. When it’s time to relax, the pristine countryside and beaches are never too far away.
Reasons Not to move to Taiwan
Note: these are common expat complaints, and may not apply to you.
- Real estate is expensive in Taiwan – prices of houses and apartments in the major cities are comparable to Tokyo’s.
- As the island is located on a complex convergent boundary of several tectonic plates, earthquakes are a frequent occurrence in daily life. Typhoons are also common, regardless of the season.
- There are restrictions that apply to foreign workers.
- Salaries for new graduates are relatively low in most professions.
- The workplace environment in Taiwan (like in Japan) is stressful and hierarchical, and working overtime is considered the norm.
- For those moving from a more private and individualistic society, certain common conversation topics (e.g. one’s family history, salary, etc.) may be uncomfortable.
- Long-term immigration isn’t easy – to be considered for residency and qualify for social benefits you must meet very strict criteria.
Getting a Visa and Finding Work
Nationals of 43 countries are eligible for Visa-Exempt entry to Taiwan (maximum duration of stay varies from 30 to 90 days). Landing visas can be granted for Bruneian, Turkish and Macedonian passport holders. For more details, please see the official website on Visa-Exempt entry.
Common visas issued include:
- Visitor Visa (typically valid for up to 6 months): for the purposes of transit, tourism, visiting relatives, inspection tours, attending international conferences, conducting business, pursuing short-term study, undertaking short-term employment or missionary work, and/or engaging in other activities as approved by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). For foreign nationals from the countries with which the ROC has entered into reciprocal visa agreements, the validity of their Visitor Visas shall be decided in accordance with these agreements. For other foreign nationals, a Visitor Visa is generally valid from three months up to one year. Duration of stay and the application fees vary – certain Visitor Visa holders may apply for a visa extension.
- Resident Visa: for foreigners who intend to stay in Taiwan for more than 6 months. The actual resident visa is valid for 3 months, and the visa holders are required to apply for the Alien Resident Certificate and Re-entry Permit at local service centers of the National Immigration Agency within 16 days from the day of arrival. They may stay in the ROC as long as the Alien Resident Certificate remains valid.
- Working Holiday (Youth Mobility) Scheme: requirements vary based on agreements signed between Taiwan and other countries. Generally, applicants must be between 18 and 30 years of age, and must have not previously obtained a working holiday visa in Taiwan. All applicants are required to provide proof of at least NT$ 100,000 (~3,400 USD) or equivalent amount of foreign currency as living expenses during the stay in Taiwan.
- APEC Temporary Business Residency Visa: all foreigners from APEC member economies, who intend to be employed, make investments, or supply services on a contractual basis in Taiwan must apply for a permit or work permit. Those intending to stay for longer than 6 months should apply for a resident visa. Following arrival in Taiwan, resident visa holders should apply for an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC).
- APEC Short-Term Business Visitor Visa: for business personnel from APEC member economies who plan to stay for a period of less than six (6) months. The visa applies to all but for those from visa-exempted countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and United States).
Permanent Residency and Citizenship
- Permanent residency: an alien will be qualified for a permanent residency application if he/she is legally resided in Taiwan for 5 consecutive years, having been physically present in the country for at least 183 days each calendar year. One is also eligible if he/she is the spouse of a Taiwanese citizen with registered permanent residency in Taiwan, or if a child of a parent with Taiwanese citizenship. Foreigners who have made exceptional contributions and/or possess technical knowledge or talent are also eligible. In terms of assets, a typical applicants’s average monthly income for the past year must be twice that of the minimum wage set by the council of Labor Affairs and the accumulated real estate and liquid assets must be valued at over NT$ 5,000,000 (~$170,000 USD).
- Obtaining citizenship: citizenship applications are handled on a case by case basis, and the process varies in duration. A prospective citizen must have logged 5 consecutive years of residence in Taiwan (physically present for more than 183 days each year). Naturalization requires a history of good behaviour without criminal history, proficiency in Chinese-Mandarin, basic understanding of laws and regulations, ability to prove oneself as a skilled professional as well as the ability to support oneself financially. Foreigners most also pass the naturalization exam with a score of 70 or higher (out of 100).
Starting a Business in Taiwan
In general, anyone looking to start a business in Taiwan must:
- Obtain a work permit at the Council of Labor Affairs (this may take about five working days after submitted application).
- Register the company name, and apply at the Ministry of Economic Affairs (processing fee is about NT$ 300).
- Create a company seal
- Present a CPA audit report.
- Submit an incorporation and tax registration application to MOEA and obtain a taxpayer’s identification number from MOEA.
- Apply for a business license at the local government office.
- Submit an application for National Health Insurance, Labor Insurance and pension plan from the Bureau of Labor Insurance. Do not apply for Labor insurance if you have less than five employees.
Links & Resources
- National Immigration Agency – official government site containing all the relevant information (in English)
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