E4

It used to be difficult to become an alien permanent resident in Taiwan, and you had to take a Mandarin test to pass. But these days, the most difficult part is just establishing the required length of residence. Once you got that down, you only need to accomplish some paperwork which is easy if you’re working, and before you know it…poof! You’re a permanent resident!

This post is about my experience applying for a Taiwan APRC and an open work permit. It may help give you an overview of the entire process. Then, I encourage you to drop by the National Immigration Agency (NIA) to have your status assessed if you can and when you can finally apply for an APRC :).

***

As I looked at the newly laminated pieces, one blue and one white, in my hand, three words ran through my mind.

“What now, Tel?”

Well, that was fast. Those 4 words also lingered in my mind as I got overwhelmed with how quick and easy the whole process was. I never planned for this. I didn’t even think I would stay this long. Sometimes, everything’s still surreal. Both times I’ve been given my APRC (alien permanent resident certificate) and my open work permit cards I’ve been so surprised I was…wait for it…shook!

So what does it take to get an APRC in Taiwan? You need to have 5 consecutive years of residence using an ARC (alien resident certificate), with a minimum stay of 183 days per year. If you leave Taiwan for more than 3 months, but be back to keep your 5-year streak, you’d need to submit a health check from a certified Taiwan clinic/hospital and police clearance from your home country on top of the basic requirements needed to apply for an APRC.

Police record from Taipei, one of the basic requirements you can get on the same day you applied for it.

This year marked my 5th year in Taiwan so I went to Taipei’s National Immigration Agency (NIA) to check if I can finally upgrade my resident status. The folks at the information counter were efficient and spoke fluent English, had a checklist ready, then quizzed me on a few things about my stay in Taiwan. It took less than 10 minutes to know everything I need to know, get a detailed list of requirements, and learn that yes I can apply for an APRC anytime!

The Taiwan APRC is the most ideal residence status for us foreigners, and gets us one step closer to Taiwanese citizenship. Since Taiwan doesn’t allow dual citizenship, you’d need to give up your original nationality to become a citizen. BUT that’s not something I like, so I’m good with a permanent residence status. Another big deal about the APRC is that it allows us to get an open work permit so we can work for any job we want, and any type of job we like. It doesn’t tie us to company visa sponsorship and gives us the freedom to apply for all kinds of work in Taiwan, except government posts.

I thought I’d still undergo some sort of interview but, well, nada!

After completing the requirements, I went back to the NIA to submit the needed paperwork. Went on a Tuesday morning and got lucky there weren’t too many foreigners being processed. As I got called in one of the counters, an immigration officer received and verified my documents. We had a little fuss over my address because I moved to a new apartment but it was just a matter of correcting some mistakes. Good thing I also brought my rent contract. After sorting it out, I paid the NTD 10,000 application fee that’s fully refundable if I’m not granted APRC status. The officer who processed me was pleased with herself, gave a big smile as she handed me my receipt, and told me that it was her first time to go through an APRC application. If she was saying that because she fussed with the address thing a while ago, I wouldn’t really know because she seemed like a friend who was sharing a proud moment. I didn’t know what I was supposed to say at that time so I just smiled and grunted “heh” though I almost blurted out “congratulations!”

I would later think back at how incredibly weird and efficient all of that was.

Before I left the proud first-timer, she told me to expect a letter from the NIA after 6-8 weeks to know the results of my application. From that letter, I would have to call a number to know what the next steps would be. I was like, am in some sort of game show? Treasure hunt, like that? But of course I just smiled and nodded while at the back of my mind I was wondering if she might have some newbie mistakes or whatnots…typical me fussing…

The application status letter and APRC payment receipt from NIA

Well, what she had was probably beginner’s luck that somehow rubbed off on me. Instead of 6 weeks, I actually got the confirmation mail just after 4 weeks! But the great unraveling was like hunting for clues ala Amazing Race. The one page mail I got was in Chinese so I asked a friend to read it for me, and it turned out to be just a postal notice. The actual NIA document is in a nearby post office ready for pick-up. Since I live in a traditional apartment, we only had one mailbox for the entire building and no one to receive packages and important documents. So off I went to the post office and, surprise! Another letter! In Chinese again! The lady at the post office only spoke in Mandarin but she was able to tell me that the letter is from NIA and there’s a number in the letter I needed to call. Don’t ask how I understood. By now I’ve developed some sort of otherworldly intuition for interpreting Mandarin. It’s still a work in progress.

Labor office contact details for the open work permit application

Well, instead of calling I just decided to personally drop by the NIA to ask about the letter. I was getting tired of the treasure hunt too. As I got to the NIA and showed them their letter, the information officer just asked me if I have my APRC receipt and current ARC. I was like yup, sure, and before I know it we were exchanging blue cards–me handing over my ARC, she handing over my APRC. I was trying my best to keep my mouth shut and not gape at the letters “APRC” printed on the card she gave me, bearing no expiry date. I was like, girl I was just here for some info! Mah heart, mind, and soul ain’t ready to for this yet!

All of these happened in under five minutes, so you can just imagine how surprised I was and how my totality as a person floated while I was at the information desk. From what I was told, the NIA would send me a letter with a contact number that I needed to call. Upon calling, that’s when I’d know if I can pick up my APRC or would need to provide more documents or well, was just flat out rejected. But I guess, I kinda jumped ahead because I went there in person. It felt unreal, to be honest, knowing how much that APRC changes me in Taiwan. The woman looked at me and probably saw how my eyes went orb-like in shock upon realizing the kind of blue card she gave me. Thank Buddha I still managed to blurt out “How about the work permit?” for which she replied I have to talk to the labor office about it, then gave me said office’s contact number.

My body was still basically floating as I left NIA that day, and it didn’t really hit me that I have successfully applied for an APRC until I called the number on the paper given to me.

As I called the work permit office, the guy said he will just email the requirements to me since their website is in Chinese for now…which I hope they’d fix soon. Anyway, I didn’t get his email hehe. Fortunately, a fellow Pinoy with APRC gave me this FB page so I just downloaded the application form with the needed requirements. Still, bless the heart of that guy who patiently wrote down my email address and got into a spelling contest with me.

Since I already have all of the requirements, I just went to their office the next day, a.k.a. Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training (BEVT) near Ximen MRT station. It was tricky to find it because their building entrance was behind a hotel. Luckily, I saw a foreign couple who looked like they too were on their way to BEVT, again intuition played here don’t ask how/why/what/when, so I just followed them and found the right building entrance. BEVT was on the 10th floor and the man from the information counter was nice enough to process my paper even though it seemed like it wasn’t his function that day. He reviewed my docs, helped fill up the Chinese parts, and collected NTD 100 as processing fee. He told me I can get the open work permit after an hour so I decided to just wait for it in the building. Again, my otherworldly skills of comprehending between the lines worked, my list of Chinese word arsenal was drained, but both me and helpful BEVT officer made it through my work permit application unscathed.

An hour later, the same man approached me and asked me to sign some release papers. Before long, he hands me a laminated piece of paper bearing my name and the much-awaited words, “Work Permit for Foreigners” that no longer have any expiration or specific employer tied to it.

As I looked at the newly laminated piece of paper in my hand, three words ran through my mind.

“What now, Tel?”

And, oh yeah, another word managed to scream happily in my head…

“FREEDOM!”

There goes another item checked off my bucket list! Except for the 4 weeks waiting time, my entire APRC and open work permit application took me a grand total of…2 days.

With that, I will now forever remember Taiwan, not for its F4, but for this–E4 a.k.a. extraordinarily efficient extra-terrestrial experience! 😀

🙂

Leave a Reply