Find A Job
Taiwan is a successful and developing state, but it is not always easy for expats to find work and obtain an employment permit there. There are restrictions on the type of jobs that overseas personnel can apply for, due to a government policy on attracting skilled workers, although English teachers are still in high demand. The visa system is complex, with a large number of specialised visa categories, and although you can enter the country on a tourist visa, it is advisable (and much more cost effective) to go through the application process before you try to relocate. We will look at some of your employment options below.
What Are The Legal Requirements For Foreign Employees?
If you wish to work in Taiwan, you will first need a job offer. Note that there are strict restrictions on the kinds of employment that foreigners may take up. The Taiwanese government is particularly keen to attract highly skilled or professional personnel.
You will then need:
• a work permit, which authorizes you to work
• a work visa, which allows you to travel to Taiwan in order to take up employment
• an ARC, which allows you to live in Taiwan
Your employer must secure a work permit and visa for you, from the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) of the Ministry of Labor, or the Ministry of Education if you are a teacher.
You/your employer will need to submit:
• a work permit valid for at least the next 6 months
• a Work Visa Application Form, printed and signed
• two passport-size pictures, 35mm by 45mm without a border, taken within the last six months and on a plain white background
your passport – this must be valid for at least another 6 months and must have at least 3 blank pages
• a Health Certificate issued within the last 3 months (an original and a photocopy from a hospital appointed by the Centers for Disease Control of the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Taiwan, or a hospital in your home country. If it is from the latter, you must have it legalised by a Taiwanese embassy or consulate)
• any additional professional documents, such as relevant qualifications
If you are not in Taiwan, you can complete most of your part of the application online, although your nearest consulate may request an interview.
If you are in Taiwan and have secured a job offer and a work permit, you can upgrade your visitor visa into a resident work visa at the Bureau of Consular Affairs in Taiwan. However, you should note that it is substantially cheaper to apply for your work visa outside Taiwan: US$66 to US$132 at a consulate outside the nation, as opposed to US$2,200 to US$4,400 within the country (for single entry and multiple entry visas respectively).
Your visa will be valid for 3 months only and cannot be extended. After this period, you must apply for an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC), which costs around US$1K for every year of residency up to 3 years.
Are Any Skills In Particular Demand?
Taiwan is restricting foreign employment entry to particular sectors. These include skilled posts in manufacturing, teaching, veterinary science, medical professionals, civil engineers and academics.
Some expats report that they have had the best response, with regards to interviews, with start-up companies in Taiwan.
Speaking Mandarin Chinese will be an advantage to you.
What Are Typical Working Hours And Annual Holiday Entitlement?
Taiwan works a 40-hour week, spread across five days. Typically, this means eight hours per day with a break for lunch. Businesses are usually open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., although retail companies can be open until 10 p.m. Banks usually close at 3.30 p.m.
Your annual leave will depend on the length of your employment. You will be entitled to three days off if you have been working between six months and a year. You will be entitled to seven days off if you have been working between one and two years.
If you are pregnant and have been working for a company for over six months, you will be eligible for maternity leave on full-pay for eight weeks. If you have been working for your employer for less than six months, you will receive the same amount of maternity leave, but at half-pay.
Minimum wage is currently set at NT$23,100 (US$755) per month and NT$150 per hour.
Can My Spouse Work?
If your spouse is under an ARC as your dependent, they can apply for one of two types of work permit for part-time employment. However, your spouse’s work permit may not exceed the length of your own work permit.
Are Speculative Applications To Companies Common?
It is common to make speculative applications to companies. Expats recommend approaching hiring managers directly. You can find their contact information online.
What Is The Best Method Of Finding A Job?
You may want to consider a recruitment agency. Alternatively, there are two main job boards covering Taiwan, including 104.com. This is, however, in Mandarin, so unless you speak the language, you might find it difficult to navigate.
What Is The Recommended Format For CVs/Resumes And Covering Letters?
A standard CV/resume is acceptable, but you may want to consider having this translated into Mandarin.
Which Questions Are Illegal / Can Be Asked In An Interview?
The Employment Services Act is extremely comprehensive and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, class, language, thought, religion, place of origin or birth, political affiliation, gender, gender orientation, sexual orientation, age, marital status, appearance, facial appearance, disability and trade union membership.
Qualifications And Training
You will need to show proof of your qualifications relevant to your job post, since the government is seeking to attract highly skilled workers. You will need to have copies of any qualifications apostilled and they may need to be certified by a government-approved Taiwanese institution.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
You may wish to visit Taiwan for a number of reasons. For example, you may want to see its picturesque shrines in Taroko National Park, its verdant mountains or its modern capital, Taipei. Whatever your motivation for going, you may first need to apply for a visa. This article will walk you through your options.
Depending on your nationality, you may be able to visit Taiwan for 30 or 90 days without applying for a visa beforehand, so long as you have a passport and a return ticket.
Passport holders from EU countries, Iceland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, or the United States can stay for 90 days. Visitors from Australia, Canada, Korea, Malaysia, or Singapore can stay for 30 days.
If you hold a passport from India, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, or Vietnam, and you hold a valid visa for Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand, or Australia, you can enter Thailand for 30 days without an additional visa.
If you are a visitor from another nationality, you will need the following:
• A completed application form, which can be found here
• Two passport photos
• Your passport and a copy
You may be asked for additional documents, depending on which visa you are applying for.
Most visas cost $50 for single-entry and $100 for multiple-entry, and expire within 90 days. All documents must be in Chinese or English, or must be Taiwan consulate-certified translations into Chinese or English.
This visa applies to visitors looking to stay for less than six months in Taiwan, who intend to travel, undergo short-term study or employment, or attend conferences.
Applicants must have a valid passport, a completed visa application form, two passport photos, bank statements from the last three months, and a copy of their travel itinerary and/or airline ticket.
The visa can be issued for 14, 30, 60, or 90 days, and can potentially be extended for up to 120 additional days.
If you intend to stay in Taiwan for more than six months, for purposes including joining family, studying, working, investing, or doing volunteer work, you’ll need to apply for a resident visa.
Applicants must have a valid passport, a completed visa application form, two passport photos, letters of approval or recommendation from Taiwan authorities, and a health certification.
Long-term students will require this type of visa, and, along with the above, will need to provide information about their financial means and their study plans, including a letter from a certified academic institution in Taiwan.
Resident visas are valid for three months at a time, and visa holders must register at the National Immigration Agency within 15 days of their arrival in Taiwan.
Join family visa
This is a type of resident visa, specifically meant for the foreign spouses, or the children or grandchildren under 20 years old, of Taiwan citizens. To apply for this type of visa, you will need all the same paperwork as for a regular residence visa. Additionally, you must provide a marriage or birth certificate, and your partner or family member’s Household Registration Certificate or Alien Residence Certificate.
If you plan to work in Taiwan, you’ll need a work permit and a residency permit, as well as a work visa if you don’t already have a visitor visa.
Taiwan only grants work visas to specialised workers, teachers, coaches, artists, and contract workers in certain fields. You’ll need your employer to get you a work permit first. Then you can apply for a work visa at your consulate if you’re abroad, or you can apply at the Bureau of Consular Affairs to change your visitor visa to a residence permit if you’re already in Taiwan.
Once you have your original work permit, you’ll need to present it, along with a photocopy, in order to get your work permit. You will also need your passport, two passport photos, a completed application form, a health certification done by a hospital in your home country and legalised by a Taiwanese consulate, and any additional documents, as required.
Work permits can only be applied for by Taiwanese employers. They will apply at the Ministry of Labor (or Ministry of Education, for teachers), and then provide you with the permit. You will need this to either apply for a work visa to enter Taiwan, or to change your visitor visa to a residency permit if you are already in Taiwan.
You need a Taiwanese work visa to enter the country, a work permit to work, and a residence permit to stay for more than 90 days. Taiwanese residence permits are called Alien Resident Certificates (ARCs), and are granted by the Taiwan National Immigration Agency. They can be issued for one, two, or three years at a time.
Once you have lived in Taiwan with an ARC for five years or more (with at least 183 days per year spent in Taiwan), you can apply for an Alien Permanent Residence Certificate (APRC), which doesn’t expire.
Get Health Insurance
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Rent Or Buy Property
The cost of renting in Taiwan is relatively cheap. However, prices do vary depending on location. Taipei, for example, has much higher rental rates than anywhere else in the country, even though central apartments there are often very small and compact.
Security deposits are standard practice in Taiwan. Usually, landlords in Taiwan will require the equivalent to at least one month’s rent as a deposit and one month’s rent paid in advance. According to the Land Act, the security deposit paid should be capped at two months’ rent.
The Land Act also states that annual property rentals cannot exceed an amount worth 10% of the total value of the property (land values are adjusted annually for tax purposes). If your landlord intends to increase your rent when you renew your contract, his tax liabilities will also increase proportionately. In addition to this, the Land Act details that any cash deposit made that accrues interest should either count towards rent payments or, upon termination of the tenancy contract, should be paid back to the tenant with said interest.
You can find rental properties in Taiwan in a number of ways. Many expatriates choose to use real estate agents, but you can also ask other expats, use social media pages and expat forums, and check newspapers and local notice boards. These are cost effective methods, so long as you have an understanding of the language.
Many expats and locals use property portals, such as Classifieds1000.com, and popular rental websites, such as Rentaltw.com, 591.com.tw, and Tealit.com.
According to data statistics website Numbeo, a one-bedroom apartment in a city centre location costs around 13,987.96 NT$ (New Taiwan Dollar) per month in rent. This is equivalent to around £377.06 (GBP) or $468.98 (USD). An apartment of the same size in a less central location costs approximately 9,500.25 NT$ (£256.09 or $318.52)). For larger properties, the price increases drastically, with a central three-bedroom apartment costing an average of 32,778.30 NT$ per month in rent (£883.58 or $1,098.97), while its more suburban counterpart costs roughly 22,058.84 NT$ (£594.62 or $739.57).
Sometimes the weather in Taiwan can cause problems. Taiwan is particularly prone to cyclones and typhoons, so a good way to check whether the property has any leaks would be to try and view it on a rainy day – this is not always possible, but is worth a try! It is also worth checking the drainage system outside if you are on the ground floor, in case the property is prone to flooding.
It is also important to keep in mind that, regardless of whether you are renting through an estate agency or directly through the landlord, you should always read your tenancy contract thoroughly. If you are not proficient in Mandarin, it may be worth having the agreement translated. However, English contracts are not subject to Taiwanese laws, so make sure you sign the Taiwanese contract. Keep a copy of both for reference.
Foreigners can buy houses in Taiwan, but since Taiwan is technically part of the People’s Republic of China, China is able to impose various restrictions on them.
In many circumstances, you may need to obtain government approval before you can make an offer on a property. Most expatriates choose to work with a local lawyer and/or estate agent to save themselves any extra hassle in the buying process. Depending on your language proficiency, you may also need to enlist the services of a translator.
Once you have received approval, the buying process is quite streamlined. The purchasing procedure in Taiwan is much the same as in many other countries, i.e. you make an offer; you pay a deposit; background checks and surveys are conducted, if necessary; and contracts are drawn up and signed. Once contracts have been signed, you will need to register with the Land Registration Office in order to officially change the ownership of the property.
Additional costs that you will need to research and budget for include:
Deed tax is levied on the transfer of the title of the real estate through sale, except where land value increment tax is in effect. As a result, the deed tax is levied only on buildings (not land).
Stamp duties are imposed on the sale, exchange, donation, or subdivision of real property executed within the territory of Taiwan at 0.1% of the contract value.
Transfer of ownership of registered land and constructional improvement is imposed on the registration fee of 0.1% of the official value of the land.
Legal fees tend to be negotiable in Taiwan.
According to the Real Estate Broking Management Act, prepared by the Department of Land Administration, the agency fees (payable by either the seller, the purchaser, or both) cannot exceed 6% of the transacted price for any single property transaction.
Notarisation is a certification issued by a court. The notarisation fees are based on a mandatory sliding scale.
Most expats choose to work with an agent. An estate agent should be familiar with local property laws, ensure you get a fair price, and be able to negotiate for you. Don’t be afraid to ask around for recommendations for reputable agencies. Some well-known ones include Century 21 and YungChing Real Estate. In addition to this, the websites mentioned in the rental section often list properties for sale as well.
You can also visit the area in which you would like to buy and look for notice boards. Red and yellow notice boards will advertise property for sale in the neighbourhood. If you find a building you like, you could try asking people who live there whether they know of any apartments for sale, as sometimes the best properties are not yet advertised.
It is virtually impossible for a foreigner to get a mortgage without a Taiwanese co-signer or guarantor, and even then it can be a difficult process. Check whether your country has any reciprocal agreements with Taiwan, as this may work in your favour and allow you to obtain a mortgage. You will also need an alien registration card (ARC), and you will need to submit an application to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) for approval.
If you are married to a Taiwanese national, you may want to put your spouse’s name on the mortgage, which can even sometimes make you eligible for a “first home-owner’s mortgage”, which has a rate of 3%.
If you have a long-term relationship with a Taiwainese bank, this may help you when you are looking for a mortgage. In some circumstances, you may be able to take out an international mortgage with your bank back home or an internationally operating bank, such as HSBC.
Move Your Belongings
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: Taiwan health insurance
Expatriates who are legally resident in Taiwan and hold an Alien Resident Certificate are required to make monthly contributions to the National Health Insurance System and are entitled to full coverage for medical and dental treatment. Monthly contributions are around TWD700, with co-payments of TWD150 being payable for each visit to a medical practitioner. Employers and the government also make contributions for each person insured.
Spouses and dependents of foreign nationals working in Taiwan are also eligible for coverage under the NHIS. Some major medical expenses are not covered by the insurance, but generally speaking, medical costs are relatively low in Taiwan compared to most western countries.
A high percentage of hospitals and clinics in Taiwan are privately owned, but deliver services under the National Health Insurance system. In general, healthcare in Taiwan is of a high standard, and many doctors have trained in the west and can speak English. However, the standard of care is variable, particularly outside the main cities.
It is possible to buy most commonly-used drugs in pharmacies in Taiwan, and some can be bought over-the-counter that are only available on prescription in western countries. However, imported medicines tend to be expensive.
There is a requirement for foreign nationals who are working in Taiwan to undergo a health examination within a month of their arrival in the country at a local clinic, including an HIV test. Vaccination for Japanese B encephalitis may be required.
Taiwan has a problem with contaminated water supplies, and it is important to boil water for at least three minutes before drinking. In Taipei, there are public drinking fountains with safe water, as indicated by the notices showing details of chemical analysis results. In Kaohsiung, the tap water contains traces of arsenic and although declared officially within safe limits, most locals obtain their drinking water from public pumps throughout the city.
Milk is unpasteurised in Taiwan and should be boiled before consumption. Foreigners should only eat well-cooked meat and fish, avoid raw vegetables and salad, and peel fruit before eating. It is very common for expatriates to suffer minor stomach upsets during their initial stay in Taiwan. Hepatitis A and B are very common here, and steps should be taken to avoid these illnesses at all costs.
Open A Bank Account
Taiwan has a technologically advanced banking system, although internet-banking is not yet popular. ATMs are widely available, and can be used to pay bills and transfer money. Credit or debit cards (with the Plus or Cirrus symbols) issued overseas can be used to withdraw cash from ATMs.
Banks which are popular with expatriates living in Taiwan include the International Commercial Bank of China and China Trust Bank, as well as the local branches of international banks such as Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank. Normal banking hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday.
To open a local or foreign currency account, you will be asked to show your passport and Alient Registration Card (ARC) and provide your full name and address and contact details. You will normally be issued with an ATM card within a week or two.
Credit cards are generally accepted at large stores and hotels in the main cities, but not in smaller establishments. It is normal practice to use cash for payment in restaurants and smaller shops.
There are no restrictions on taking currency into or out of Taiwan. Foreign currency can be exchanged at airports and banks.
Travellers’ cheques, preferably in US dollars, can be cashed in many hotels, larger restaurants and shops.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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Learn The Language
If you are planning to relocate to Taiwan, you may be asking yourself which languages are spoken in the country, and whether you will be able to communicate easily in English. We will look at some of your options below.
The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin. Standard Mandarin and Taiwanese Hokkien, a local form of Mandarin, are spoken widely in the country. Japanese is also spoken and is the second main foreign language used in Taiwan, after English. The heritage of both of these languages stems from Chinese and Japanese imperialism: there are some indigenous languages in Taiwan but they are spoken by very few people these days.
Standard Mandarin is taught in schools and official communications are written in it. It is mainly spoken in Taipei among people who are from a mainland ancestry.
Hokkien, also known simply as Taiwanese, is spoken elsewhere in the country. It stems from the Southern Min dialect of Fujia and is increasingly popular among young people: languages are often politically influenced and Taiwanese is seen as a sign of the country’s independence from mainland China.
Hakka, an indigenous tongue, is spoken by the ethnic minority Hakka people of Kaohsiung, Hsinchu, and Taoyuan. There is also a smattering of aboriginal languages, such as Amis and Siraya, which have been on the brink of extinction but are being revived by enthusiasts.
English is widely spoken in Taiwan. It is taught in schools and is the language of commerce: you should not find too many difficulties in making yourself understood, particularly in urban areas and amongst the younger generation. However, it is advisable to learn at least a little of the local language.
We would suggest focusing on standard Mandarin to begin with, and then adding Taiwanese to your understanding. You will need to master a very different alphabet, and Mandarin is not an easy language for Westerners to learn, but you will find provision for language training on the island in addition to online resources, which you may wish to utilise for a head start before you arrive.
Taipei has a number of language schools and costs are reasonable. Since it is the official language of the island and spoken extensively in Taipei, you will find yourself in an immersive environment.
For example, the Taiwan Mandarin Institute (TMI) Taipei runs regular courses (two hours per day) or intensive courses (four hours per day). They can also one-to-one lessons for you with a personal tutor.
Taipei Language Institute (TLI) started as a language school for non-Chinese speaking missionaries and has been in business for a long time. They can arrange classes for you which focus on Taiwanese Mandarin as well as Standard Mandarin if you wish.
The National Taiwan University runs a Foreign Language Program, although you will need to go through the university admissions process. They also run summer schools.
The National Cheng Kung University in Tainan City offers small classes (6 to 12 people) or individual classes. Elective courses are also available, which focus on Chinese writing, literature, plays and other subjects.
The LTI Mandarin School has campuses in Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei and offers tailored courses, including full- or part-time courses, one-to-one tuition or group classes, shared apartments or homestays. You can customize your tuition to focus on spoken Chinese or business Chinese.
In addition, the Taiwanese Ministry of Education offers subsidies to groups of students to study Mandarin in the country during the summer and winter academic breaks, via the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship. This program enables foreign students to undertake Mandarin courses at affiliated language training centers around the nation, while also boosting international awareness and an understanding of Taiwan culture and society. The scholarships are awarded by ROC representative offices or embassies based on the merits of the applicants and provide a monthly stipend of NT$25,000 (US$825).
You can also check out the Overseas Community Affairs Council’s online Mandarin learning platform (you may need a little of the language already to get started).
You may be intending to travel to Taiwan to work as an English teacher. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Hiring usually takes place after the Lunar New Year in January/February and again in the summer. Your average monthly salary will be in the region of US$1000 – 2000 per month. You will need a Resident Work Visa and your employer should be able to assist you with your application. You are most likely to find work in the cities.
Choose A School
Education in Taiwan is free and compulsory. The public sector educational system has recently been overhauled, and has been developing since 2014, adding a further three years of compulsory senior secondary education to the curriculum. Currently, it is divided into stages:
• elementary education (6 years)
• junior high school education (3 years)
• senior secondary education (3 years of either senior vocational schools or senior high schools)
• higher education (colleges, universities, institutes of technology, and graduate schools and postgraduate programs)
The standard of education in Taiwan is excellent and the country regularly scores highly when it comes to international educational rankings. However, the system has attracted criticism for focusing too heavily on rote learning and memorisation.
The language of instruction in public schools is Mandarin Chinese. As an expat in the country, therefore, you may wish to opt for enrolling your child in the private sector for linguistic reasons. If you are spending a short time in the country and your child is not bilingual in Mandarin, there may be a language barrier in Taiwanese public schools.
However, you will find provision in the private and international schools sector on the island, although this is not large, given the size of the country. Around half the higher education available in Taiwan is found in the private sector, although there is less provision for pupils in early years. However, the market for English-speaking preschools is growing so should you need provision at this stage, you should have a number of options.
Hsinchu American School, for example, has an American curriculum for students from 6 – 18. Fees are between US$13K – 16K per year.
Taipei European School is an independent, co-educational day school, which was formed through the amalgamation of The Taipei British School, Ecole Française de Taipei and Deutsche Schule Taipei. It now operates as a single European entity through a non-profit-making foundation and has French, British, German and IB curricula. It teaches 3 -18 year old students and has a trilingual approach to its language of instruction. Fees are between US$15K – 23K per annum.
The Acton Academy Taipei is a US-accredited micro-school for pupils aged 6 to 12. They report that they use Socratic discussions to hone critical thinking, self-paced, adaptive programs to master core skills, and hands-on, real-world projects to deliver 21st-centry skills: an alternative educational approach with no homework. Fees are in the region of US$12K per year.
Taipei American School offers an American-based education for a fee range of US$27K – 31K per year.
Kang Chiao International School is a private international school, located in the mountains of New Taipei City, offering an overseas college preparatory program for grades 7-12. KCIS is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and is authorised to provide the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program to Grades 11 and 12. The language of instruction is English and you will need to contact the school directly for its fees.
A number of schools may have a religious orientation, predominantly various forms of Christianity such as Adventist or Catholic. Alternative pedagogical methods are also available, mainly in the form of Montessori education.
You may find that you need to make one-off or regular payments such as capitalisation fees or enrolment fees: these can vary so do check with the school and make sure that you are aware of what you are paying. You may be able to pay in termly instalments. Check if there are any sibling reductions.
Enrolment policies will vary from school to school, but your child may be asked to take a proficiency test (for example in English or maths). Some schools do not impose entry tests. You can also check the accreditation of your selected school: for instance, with organisations such as COBIS (the Council of British International Schools).
Homeschooling has been legal here since 1999 and as an expat, you may homeschool without restriction in Taiwan.