'Our Biggest Visa Hassles'

Trista di Genova, 0riginally published in The China Post on 14 Dec 2008.

As per the request of our loyal Foreign Community page readers, this week’s Expat Chat deals with the topic of the most commonly experienced visa problems. This is the first of a four-part series.


“Overstaying visas” is a huge concern of many expats here. “Derek,” from South Africa, went to the Taipei County police station about a month ago. There he accidentally discovered that a rule on establishing permanent residency in Taiwan had recently changed — it’s now back to 5 years’ residency from 7 years (it was changed from 5 to 7 a few years ago). He was informed that after teaching 5 years in Taiwan for the same school, he should now be eligible for an APRC (Alien Permanent Residency Certificate).

However, to his dismay, Derek realized he’d accidentally overstayed his visa by a month. So instead of gaining permanent residency, he’s been banned from entering Taiwan for one year. Last week, Derek sold off all his stuff, packed up and left for the Philippines.

An American journalist, “Sophia,” has been living in Taiwan over 6 years, and is interested in establishing permanent residency, to give her more mobility in taking on part-time jobs. But she was told at the Banciao police station that she’s changed her ARC (Alien Residency Permit) “too many times” after switching employers, thus making her ineligible. This “fine print” was only in Chinese, she added, and is determined to appeal.

“If I’ve stayed here over 5 years as a professional, I should be able to get permanent residency, regardless of where I’ve worked, shouldn’t I?” she argues.

Sophia recently overstayed a second time and would have been banned from the country a year if she hadn’t had a work permit approved by the Council of Labor Affairs.

“I overstayed my visa exactly because I was waiting for my work permit to be approved,” she said. “But watch out — they just changed the rule on fines Aug. 1 this year. If you overstay more than 11 days, it’s now doubled to a NT$4,000 fine at the airport. Found that out the hard way.”

Other expats like Canadian “Henry” have overstayed 3 times, each time for a few days. But he’s a businessman and buxiban (cram school) owner. He’s also married to a Taiwanese, which helps in terms of paperwork.

One Canadian, “Mike,” is unfortunate enough to overstay more than the 6-month limit a few years ago. Under the old rules, he was banned from the country for 5 years, and is teaching ESL students in “Hongcouver,” which is how he was trying to make a living here. Now the rules have changed Aug. 1, but it is unclear whether the old or new rules would apply retroactively, or in Mike’s case. To appeal such cases, one can call the National Immigration Agency at (02) 2388-9393 x2653.

There have been other reports of people who have overstayed their visa for two years — one paid the maximum NT$10,000 fine and things were “okay” again — and especially if it’s the first overstay. But it all “depends on the facts,” as one immigration official said; for example, the person’s age (under 18 get half-fines for example), profession, whether they have any relatives in Taiwan.

So what are the rules?

Fines for Overstaying: Under 10 days, NT$2,000; 11-29 days NT$4,000; 30-60 days, NT$6,000; 61-90 days, NT8,000; over 91 days NT$10,000. For overstays between 6 months to a year, you’ll be banned from Taiwan for one year.

“The number of days overstayed, over a year, will be the amount of time you cannot come back to Taiwan,” said an immigration official. In other words, if you overstay 2 years, you won’t be allowed back for two years. The longest period you’d be barred from the country is now 3 years.

Expats are invited to call the toll-free International Community Service Hotline (with English service) to ask any questions: 0 800 024-111.

–Compiled by Trista di Genova, The China Post