Showing posts with label visa_issues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label visa_issues. Show all posts

Thursday, March 19, 2020

In Limbo: foreigners hoping to build lives in Taiwan face uncertainty with the new travel ban


The Taiwan CECC (Central Epidemic Command Center) announcement on Wednesday that all non-resident foreigners would be barred from entering the country sent shockwaves across Taiwan’s international community due to the CCP Virus. Many who had hoped to enter Taiwan, or who are here legally on landing or tourist visas and had hoped to stay, were caught without many good options. 

On a positive note, the government’s explicit clarification that foreign residents would be allowed to enter was a relief. While it’s unlikely we would have been banned, policymakers have a tendency to forget that the foreign community exists, leaving us confused and anxious whenever a new policy doesn’t clearly state whether we are included or not. That they thought of this signals a welcome change.

However, many foreigners in Taiwan who do not have legal residency are now finding themselves difficult situations. While regular tourists can be expected to leave, not everyone fits that category. There are those who are here legally as job seekers, engaged to marry a resident, digital nomads, and others who wanted to fly in to be with family but now can't. 

I asked a few of these people if they'd mind sharing their stories, and they've agreed. From employment, to marriage, to pregnancy to keeping families together, there are so many ways that the new policy has impacted foreigners, in ways the government likely never considered.

Here are some of their stories. 

(More stories are coming in, so I'll update as that happens.)

Trying to marry as the window closes

D. is a resident in Taiwan, working in the tech sector. A Hungarian national born in Serbia, he is engaged to an American woman who has been staying here on landing visas. He can stay, but she can't, once her visa is up. It's highly unlikely that "we're planning to marry" would trigger an exemption, but of course it would be safer and better if they weathered this pandemic in place, together.

They've looked into speeding up the wedding, but the thorny issue of his nationality makes obtaining the necessary certificate of single status difficult for him to obtain, at a time when de facto embassies here are dealing with bigger matters. The TECO office in Hungary also serves Serbians (there is no office in Serbia for political reasons), but he has no contacts in Hungary who can send him the needed certificate. It is easier for his partner, who should be able to go to AIT if they're not completely overwhelmed.

They are currently planning to try to get the required document for him from the Hungarian embassy in Taiwan so they can register to marry before her visa expires, but it is still unclear if that will be possible.

A high-risk pregnancy and delivering alone

M. is single and carrying a high-risk pregnancy which is due in 4 weeks. Her mother was scheduled to fly to Taiwan for the delivery, was willing to do the mandatory quarantine and even moved her flight up. She was going to get here this Saturday - which was not soon enough before the travel ban took effect.

Due to coronavirus concerns, only one family member - and yes, they must be a family member - is allowed in the delivery room. M. has no family in Taiwan, so she will deliver alone. She also lives alone, and can't afford a post-partum hotel, so while she'd been looking forward to having her mother there during her recovery period, now she'll be living alone for that time.

She doesn't know when her mother will be able to get here. 

Family reunification

S. and S. are permanent residents in Taipei, but their daughter A. lives in London with her boyfriend, whom she met while attending international school in Taipei. They've been together 6 years. The daughter and her boyfriend want to return to Taiwan to stay with S. and S. (the boyfriend's parents currently live in China, and he is American by nationality). Because the option to get permanent residency for the children of permanent residents was only recently made available, A. missed that window and has no resident visa.

S. says that A. and her boyfriend attempted to get visas, giving the reason that they want to be with family (official or otherwise) but were turned away.

"I don’t know when I’ll see her. I wish they had ARCs. It doesn’t seem fair, because this is our home now - we both have APRCs. This is the only home she has, besides her apartment in London," S. says, and she clearly wants her daughter with her.

Newly-Hired Limbo

For those hoping to teach in Taiwan, a background check from their home country is necessary for their first job. For subsequent jobs, if they haven't been out of Taiwan for too long, a Taiwanese background check is sufficient. Of course, the home-country checks take forever because Western governments just can't get these things right. The Taiwanese check is cheap and takes a day or two.

C., an American, had had a home background check done for a previous job, but that was awhile ago, so it's no longer valid. He's now back in Taiwan and had been job hunting on a landing visa (which is not really encouraged, but is quite common). He has a job offer with all other paperwork complete, but the employer needs a background check from the US, as this will be his first stint here on a work permit. Background checks can take a very long time indeed, though there is an option to expedite. An expedited check under the best circumstances takes a week. With the West in the throes of a pandemic, who knows how long it will be?

C's landing visa runs out on March 29th. Work permit paperwork takes 5 days. So, he has until this Monday - that's two working days - to figure this out and get his paperwork submitted.  That won't be possible, clearly. Normally one would just take a weekender to a nearby country to restart the landing visa and pick up the work permit after returning, but with the borders closed to all non-residents, that's no longer an option for C. - which was announced just a few days before his hard deadline to get the paperwork through, or leave.

C. isn't sure what he's going to do, or if going to the immigration office, hat in hand, with a letter from his new employer and copies of his work permit application materials, will be enough to have an exception granted (this is easier for Canadians and British people but not as easy for Americans). He can try, but his future is uncertain.

Love, Interrupted

W. is from the Honduras, and his partner, D., is Taiwanese. Although same-sex marriage is legal in Taiwan, Taiwanese can only marry foreigners if it is legal in their partner's home country as well (due to reasons I truly do not comprehend). Honduras, of course, does not recognize marriage equality, so W. and D. cannot marry in Taiwan. This also means that D., a Taiwanese citizen, cannot access a right that should be guaranteed to him by the government.

For now, W. is a "visa runner", but would prefer not to be. He just wants to marry D. and stay in Taiwan, but due to a quirk of the same-sex marriage laws, that's impossible. He's in a position he never wanted to be in.

That's not grounds for an extension or exception as, on paper, W. has no 'reason' to stay as there is no permanent situation available to him.

His visa runs out in 15 days, and he will have to go back to Honduras. After that, he doesn't know when he'll be allowed back into Taiwan, or be reunited with D. to continue their lives together.

Trying to Contribute to Taiwan

A. had been working with an American non-profit and an existing organization in Taiwan to self-fund his teaching of English and Art courses to Indigenous children. When the CCP Virus broke out, both sides backed out, and then the borders closed after he arrived. A. now has 81 days to find a way to legally stay in Taiwan.

The Uncertainty, and the Happy Ending

H. moved to Taiwan with her husband and had been planning to do a visa run to Macau to get a proper visitor visa and get her spousal visa paperwork in order. Now, if she leaves for Macau she won't be allowed back in, and while she may qualify for a special exemption, she's not sure at all.

G., who is British, and his Taiwanese wife had been living in Europe. His job ended, they had no desire to live in the UK especially after Brexit, and have ties in Taiwan, so it made sense to come back now. G. came in on a landing visa, and had planned to get another one after Christmas, giving them time to get the spousal visa paperwork through.

Then coronavirus hit, and their options began to narrow, as flights kept getting canceled to potential destinations. Travel clearly wasn't going to work. At that point, about a week ago, they went to the immigration office to ask for an extension, given the circumstances. Then the travel ban hit, and without an answer they were obviously quite nervous. If his extension were rejected, he'd have to go to the UK to wait out the pandemic, where he hadn't lived in some time.

Fortunately for G., he got word today that his extension was approved and he will be able to stay in Taiwan.

All I can say is,
 don’t assume an extension won't be granted - come up with a good reason and ask. Make sure you have enough time so that they can consider your case. Bring evidence. Get back-up. Fight for your right to not die. 

A lot of people are going to get screwed by this travel ban, but I hope that despite its tough talk, the government will be lenient with granting exceptions to those who have extenuating circumstances. These foreigners are already here, so they are not a risk. They want to build a life here and have the means to do so.

The CECC surely did not mean to tear apart families when it formed this policy; they were trying to do what was best for the country. However, we must ask that they consider the impact this has on foreigners in Taiwan, and re-evaluate their visa extension and exception rules. 

Good luck to everyone. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Guess What I Have

This is now something I have!

Yes, I did just cut out this part of the photo, because I'm not about to put my personal ID info on a public blog.

But, you know, whatever.

*Does Permanent Residency Dance*

Here is how I celebrated:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Waiting For The White Horse

Medium-good or slightly above average luck, waiting patiently afte preparing things diligently and in great detail: this fortune is just about right.

Two things today.

One, I have learned the value of not reading too quickly and then jumping to conclusions on comments when the commenter is someone who has offended you in the past. So chalk that up to two mistakes this month (the other was taking that stupid "this isn't actually a trail" trail up a mountain). Next time I'll read more carefully rather than seeing a commenter's name and assuming things.

Two, I was a part of a program that took students from one of the Big Four accounting firms to Longshan Temple today. The purpose was to train them in explaining interesting things about the temple to foreign visitors, so they'd have something to say in English about the things they already know in Chinese (plus some things they didn't know!).

During the program, the students practiced their English by going with me to draw a fortune stick. First you pray (apparently this is not strictly necessary, though), then you throw the fortune blocks (those crescent-moon shaped blocks) to ask the god if you may ask a question - if they land one side up, one side down, the answer is yes ("no" is two sides down, and "later" is two sides up - the god is laughing). You ask your question, and draw a stick. Then you throw again to see if it's the right stick (if not, you draw another). You take the stick to get a corresponding scroll with your fortune on it - the fortune is usually a poem, riddle or otherwise difficult to decipher message.

I got two "yes" answers and went to get my scroll, and ended up with 中吉, meaning "neutral luck", but my students said that it was not so much "neutral" as "medium good" - it was in the middle but still above average. I've had generally above average luck for most of my life, but not amazing luck (although I guess you could say that being born in the middle class of a developed nation in a peaceful region - even if the USA is not really a 'peaceful' country - to loving and supportive parents is amazing luck, which I guess it is from a global perspective). So...this made sense.

The little poem or message is something along the lines of preparing everything in great detail, and having the preparedness to deal with any problem. At that point, all one can do is "wait for the white horse to return in the sunset" or something along those lines.

So, slightly above average luck, you've prepared everything to the best of your ability, now calm down, be patient and wait.

I've been assured by my students that it's fine to post the fortune here, and even to admit what I asked for (it won't alter the fortune or render it invalid). So I can say here that I asked if my permanent residency application would go through.

Considering the headache I got preparing the documents, and the headache NIA gave me when they lost my records for 2007-2008 (and all I had to prepare to prove to them that I did, in fact, have an ARC at that time), this sounds just about right.

So...I just need to be patient. I've done all I can. It's been five weeks, though - I'm wondering when that white horse is ever going to show up.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Red Tape Diaries

This is Part I of a two-part post - the second section will come after I have my APRC in hand. At that point, I'll presumably have more to share.

Anyway, I've learned a lot as I've gone through the process of getting my APRC, or permanent residency in Taiwan (still not done - fingers crossed). The best compendium of info is here, on Taiwanease, although questions asked in that thread don't get many replies, if any (I believe that will change and things will pick up).

That said, that thread is huge, and there's more to say about the process than can be conveniently put in it - or should be. Personal experience doesn't equate to fact.

So, here's my personal experience.

1.) A lot of information is contradictory - 

One person I met with an APRC insisted that you needed to pay NT$12,000, elsewhere it says that it's NT $10,000. Another said you needed NT$300,000 in savings even if you met the minimum income requirement. Another said that you needed to have met the income requirements for the entire 5 years' you've been here, not just the past year. In one thread, it says that the translation and notarization of your home country background check must be done in the country of origin. Elsewhere it's pretty clear that it can be done in Taiwan once the document is TECRO-authorized. I've also heard that you need to do this all in person in your home country, whereas elsewhere I've heard that you do not.

So far what I've learned is that the fee is NT$10,000 but subject to change, you don't need to show savings if you meet the minimum income requirement of double the national minimum wage (so you need to be earning about NT$430,000/year, and this needs to be reflected on your tax statement so make sure your employer isn't under-reporting you), that you only need to have earned this or be able to prove you've earned it for the past tax year, that you can do the translation and notarization of your home-country background check in Taiwan, and that it is quite easy to have an intermediary do things for you in your home country, it just involves a bit more paperwork (generally filling out more the bottom of the forms).

2.) It's a good idea to check your status before you begin - 

The Immigration office tells you this, but I was so sure that I was fine that I almost didn't do it. When I finally did, I learned that they had lost - lost! - the record of my ARC for my entire 2nd year in Taiwan. Fortunately I had a copy of the ARC in question and that was enough to reinstate my record so I could apply for an APRC.

Which leads me to..

3.) If you hope to get an APRC or it's even a possibility when you first move to Taiwan, SAVE EVERYTHING!

That copy of one year's ARC really saved my ass. Without it, I'd be out of luck.

4.) Don't listen to the "expected timeline" for your home-country background check.

I can't speak for other countries, but the 3-5 weeks promised by the FBI? Bollocks! It took 6 weeks plus a few days in the mail, to an American address! Start way early with this - and...

5.) Do your home country background check first.

It's the longest part of the process and other documents get dangerously close to expiring if you wait too long. When you or your intermediary receives the clearance in the mail, start the rest of the process.

6.) The Taipei NIA office has a post office downstairs, conveniently close to where they do fingerprints.

So, you can mail out your background check application to your home country right after you get the fingerprinting done. So convenient.

7.) Prepare more than one fingerprint card -

The woman knows what she's doing but mistakes happen and coming back is a pain.

8.) If you get your health check for the APRC, it can't be used to renew an ARC, but if you do an ARC check and APRC check at the same time, you save money.

Most of the procedures are the same, so they only charge you for the extra blood and the extra processing. The fees for the check, X-ray, etc. are combined so you only pay slightly more than the cost of one check. -

9.) Many people say you can get a police background check in Taiwan (CCRD) from your "local" police office. This is probably wrong.

Maybe not, but my local office - Da'an, so not exactly the boonies! - had no idea what I was talking about when I went. I finally figured out that I needed to go to the large office in Ximen (MRT Ximen Exit 5, walk straight ahead one minute). You'd be well advised to just do this rather than wasting time at the local police office. Bring your ARC and passport. It's cheap and quick and takes just a few days to process.

10.) The Taiwan CCRD is a lot easier to get than your home country background check.

6 weeks and $18 plus fingerprints from the FBI vs. two days and NT100, no fingerprints, from Taiwan. Awesome! You don't have to rush as much on this.

11.) Everyone says "get the home country background check translated and notarized" but it's hard to find information on where exactly you can do that.

So I will tell you: there's a notary that advertises on Taiwanease here (Neihu), and another one near 228/Ximen: Chongqing S. Road Section 1 #121 7th floor #1 (台北市重慶南路1段121號7樓之1) - call (02)2388-8688 to make an appointment.

When I find a translation service I will update here. I still don't know where to get that done.

12.) Notarization is surprisingly expensive - 

NT$750, so make sure your documents are in order the first time. I was surprised because for a time I was a notary in Virginia, but I performed notarization duties for free for my old company (who sponsored me in getting the designation so I could notarize things for associates).

13.) If you have an intermediary pick up your home country background check and take it to TECRO, TECRO will want a lot of stuff, including a notarized authorization letter from you.

For US only: send your intermediary your signed application and have them fill in the bottom part, a US dollar bank check, money order or cashier's check payable to TECRO for US$15 plus US$38 if you want it sent directly back to you (if you have your intermediary pick it up and mail it to you, you don't need to include the US$38). You can get a US dollar bank check at First Bank on Heping E. Road, a short walk west from Heping/Fuxing intersection. Hua Nan bank should also do it. Fubon has weird rules and it takes a few days, but the First Bank gave it to me immediately.

Also send your intermediary a copy of your ID (I included ARC and passport to be safe), a letter with the address you'd like the authenticated document sent to, and a notarized authorization letter from you, allowing your intermediary to do this. If you have no idea what to say, pick and choose elements from the templates here.

You can get the letter notarized at the locations above. Make sure to have your intermediary's name in the letter as it appears on their ID (they'll need to bring a copy of their ID, as well).

14.) If your ARC is close to expiration, having an APRC application in process does not entitle you to extend your ARC, you need to do that through regular means.

I learned this the hard way - I thought that if I applied for my APRC before my ARC expired, that it would be OK because, with an application in process, they'd extend the ARC. No dice. So, get both health checks done at once and then extend your ARC as usual if you are in this position.

Or, do the APRC process when your ARC isn't close to expiring and save yourself a lot of stress. Learn from my mistakes.

15.) If you really don't want to extend your ARC (like, you hate your job and don't want to sign another contract but need to in order to renew), you can await an APRC on a visitor's visa.

Once the APRC application has been submitted, you don't need to continue to have an ARC - they will no longer care if you've had one "unbroken" for 5 years if they already have the APRC application. You can leave and come back on a visitor's visa as you await your APRC.

16.) I thought it would take just a few short weeks after applying.

Wrong. I haven't submitted the documents yet but I will soon, however, the NIA told me that once you've submitted, it takes up to a month for them to determine whether to grant you an APRC or not. If they say a month, plan for more (see above with my bad FBI experience).

17.) Keep copies of everything. Everything!

You never know when they'll come in handy. Never submit an original if you don't have a copy, and try to get two originals of everything.

18.) That thread on Taiwanease is just right when it comes to the order in which you should prepare your documents:

1.) Call Immigration to make sure you are eligible and have no outstanding issues (this really saved my butt)
2.) Get your old work permits and tax returns in order
3.) Apply for home country background check (inc. fingerprints)
4.) Prepare and documents for your intermediary if you have one
5.) Authorize background check at TECRO
6.) Translate and notarize background check
7.) While #3 and #4 are in process, get your health check and Taiwan CCRD (background check)
8.) Get your employment certificate from work (valid for only 1 month)
9.) Make copies of everything, incl. ARC and every page of your passport
10.) Call Immigration (NIA) and let them take it from there

Anyway, that's about it. The whole process has been quite illuminating, and not nearly as bureaucratic as I'd feared (really the most bureaucratic part of it is all the crap surrounding my FBI background check. The Taiwan side is surprisingly easy).