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Living in Taiwan

 

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    Overview

    What defines the expat living experience in Taiwan and sets it apart from other places? One thing is the country's size -- it's quite easy to drive the entire length of the island in under six hours. This means that whether based in the north or the south, for expats the entire island has a sense of community. Taiwanese society is generally egalitarian, people are warm, friendly and interested in visitors from other countries -- foreign nationals living in Taiwan often remark on how easy it is to fit in here. In addition, Taiwan's unique blend of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian traditions creates an atmosphere that is particularly tolerant of other religions and denominations.

    HOUSIN

    Due to a long and energetic construction boom, housing is relatively inexpensive and rents have actually come down over the last 5 years. A commonly cited average for Taipei housing rental is NTD1,000 per ping (about 3.3 sq meters). A security deposit of at least 2 months is generally required. Many corporate expats live in modern security apartments in the Tienmu district in North Taipei and Sindian (formerly spelled Hsintien) in Southern Taipei. Prices of course vary according to inclusion of amenities and facilities such as air conditioning and swimming pools. Rental is proportionately less expensive in Taiwan's other cities.

    UTILITIES

    Basic utilities like electricity, water, gas, phone and trash collection can depend on the type of building and location but overall these amenities equal standards in most developed countries. One difference is that homes in Taiwan don't usually have central heating and additional appliances may be required during the short winter season. Natural gas, home delivered, is preferred for cooking and water heating.

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    SHOPPING

    In Taiwan shopping is convenient and prices are competitive with other countries in Asia. International retailers such as Carre Four and B & Q have numerous outlets all over the island. Supermarkets, shopping malls and department stores are all part and parcel of modern Taiwan. Surprisingly, Taipei is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy photographic equipment. In the area south west of Taipei Train Station prices can be cheaper than HK, NYC or the Internet.

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    DINING

    Taiwan is renowned for its delicious food all over Asia. In addition to the island's own unique cuisine -- a myriad of fine foods and dining experiences -- most of the world's favorite foodstuffs and beverages are available here. Not just American hamburgers but juicy prime rib steaks, Italian pizza and pasta, sea-fresh Japanese sashimi, German pig knuckles and sauerkraut, spicy Korean Kim-chee, Swiss fondue, chocolate and more are all handy at various restaurants and markets, making Taiwan a virtual gourmand's paradise. And for those who like a drink, there are many cosy bars, outdoor beer gardens, plus traditional British and Irish pubs to quench thirst after a busy day.

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    RECREATION AND LEISURE

    Taiwan boasts a complex and diverse topography. Apart from natural and cultural tourist spots and destinations, Taiwan offers active recreational opportunities for the more ambitious, like mountain climbing, hiking, fishing, camping and other activities. In the warm summer months there's dragon boat racing as well as other water sports and activities such as whale and dolphin watching, snorkeling, white water rafting, wind surfing and surfing, while air-born sports such as hang gliding and paragliding are also enjoyed in Taiwan. Golf is a preferred sporting pastime of Taiwanese businessmen.

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    CULTURE

    A rich historical legacy has created Taiwan's diverse cultural environment. In Taiwan, not only can aboriginal, native Taiwanese, and Chinese culture be experienced, there are also historical landmarks and relics left by the Dutch and Japanese. The first-time traveler to Taiwan is sure to be amazed by all there is to see and even long time resident expatriates are always discovering previously unknown facets of this exciting and varied culture. From quaint yet holy animist shrines in rice paddy fields to colorful mobile opera, puppet shows and pig festivals to Taipei's National Palace Museum containing world-famous Chinese art and cultural treasures.

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    EDUCATION

    Many foreign people who come to work in Taiwan are concerned about their children's education. Taiwan has many worthy international schools, including the Taipei American School, Taipei Korean School, Taipei Japanese School, Taipei German School, Taipei French School, Taipei British School and there are more in Taichung and Kaohsuing.

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    For those considering learning Taiwanese or Mandarin to improve business communication and understanding there are of course various institutes and colleges that will tailor their tutoring to the schedule of busy executives and their staff.

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    PERSONAL TAXES

    Taxation is an issue that foreign nationals living in Taiwan will sometimes face but compared to many other countries personal tax is relatively light. In Taiwan, the main taxes related to foreign nationals are income tax, business tax, inheritance tax, and capital gains tax.

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    TRANSPORT

    Public Transport

    Taiwan has a complete round-the-island railway network, making rail transportation highly convenient. The high-speed railway, slated to go into service by October 2005, will significantly shorten travel time between north and south Taiwan. The island is developing urban mass rapid transit systems -- Taipei's has already become a major success changing the traveling habits of an entire metropolis in just a few short years. The capital city's bus routes have recently been streamlined and it's even possible to travel by ferry in some areas.

    Driving in Taiwan

    Taiwan's highway system forms an extensive network of convenient transportation routes and as car ownership increases so do the skills of Taiwanese drivers. Many foreign visitors to Taiwan hire or buy autos and the driving experience in this country has much improved over the past five years.

    Air Transportation

    Taiwan currently has two international airports (located in Taoyuan County in the north and the suburbs of Kaohsiung in the south) as well as domestic airports in Taipei, Taichung, Hualien, Taitung, Chiayi, Tainan, Pingtung, and the off-islands of Kinmen and Matsu. All foreign passengers are required to produce their passports before boarding domestic flights.

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    Working in Taiwan

    Taiwan has made great strides in accommodating the staffing needs of international companies with operations in Taiwan. Not only have application requirements and procedures for work permits for foreign nationals been clarified and streamlined through the consolidation of what was once the domain of many different agencies into a single window, many restrictions have either been lifted or significantly relaxed for multinationals, thus allowing for greater hiring flexibility.

    The following information is provided as general reference only. Please be sure to check with the Council of Labor Affairs, Bureau of Consular Affairs, and the National Police Administration for the latest information and requirements.

    Work Permits

    Employers who wish to hire foreign nationals to come and work in Taiwan are required to first apply with the Council of Labor Affairs to obtain a work permit for the foreign nationals they wish to hire. A work permit application form must be submitted in Chinese and requires recent passport photos of the person and supporting documentation such as photocopies of the candidate's CV, passport (picture page), employment contract, health certificate from a pre-approved hospital, proof of education, and proof of previous work experience. Please note that certified Chinese translations are usually required for all foreign-language documents. The work permit application review process takes approximately two weeks. Once the application is approved, the work permit -- a formal government-issued letter of approval -- is sent by registered mail to the employer. The letter, which serves as proof of permission for the prospective employee to undertake employment in Taiwan, is required for the resident visa application.

    Visas

    After receiving the work permit, the prospective employee should apply for a resident visa. If they have arrived in Taiwan with a Visitor¡¦s Visa, they may change their visa status without departing Taiwan by applying at the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei, Taichung or Kaohsiung. If they are not in Taiwan, they must apply for a Resident Visa at the nearest Taiwan representative office. If they have entered under the Visa Waiver Program or received a Landing Visa, they must depart Taiwan to apply for a Resident Visa.

    Alien Resident Certificates

    After receiving a resident visa and entering Taiwan, foreign nationals are then required to apply for an Alien Resident Certificate with the foreign affairs police under the National Police Administration of the Ministry of Interior.

    Foreign Nationals with Resident Status in Taiwan

    Different rules apply for the hiring of foreign nationals with resident status in Taiwan. For example, foreign nationals who are married to ROC nationals and have obtained legal resident status are permitted to work in Taiwan without having to apply for a work permit. As for permanent residency holders, they may apply for an "open" work permit directly with the Council of Labor Affairs and do not need to apply for a work permit through their employer.

    Related links:

    Kaohsiung Municipal Police Headquarters relevant info
    http://www.kmph.gov.tw/english/

    Q&A and other information on foreign professionals working in Taiwan from the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training, Council of Labor Affairs
    http://www2.evta.gov.tw/evta_wcf/index_eng.htm

    Taipei City Police Department info related to applying for permanent residency
    http://english.tcpd.taipei.gov.tw/

    American Institute in Taiwan information on applying for visas and working in Taiwan (for US citizens)
    http://www.ait.org.tw/en/visa/
    http://acs.ait.org.tw/

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