As this website indicates, I’m currently in Taiwan on a Working Holiday Visa. This has proved to be quite an immersing experience. You can find plenty of information on the internet about Working Holidays in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, but the information on Taiwan is few and far in between. So, I decided to write up some things about it.
I spent a year in New Zealand on a Working Holiday and it was overall a great experience traveling around the country and earning some funds. It was overall a breeze to apply for the visa and do all the paperwork in the country – also made easy by the hundreds of websites online explaining every little detail: From Visa fees to restrictions, tax numbers to bank accounts and job websites to tax returns. You can find guides everywhere and even if you don’t, as long as you speak passable English, everything is relatively straightforward.
Finding out that I can do a Working Holiday in Taiwan as well lifted my spirits as this allowed me to experience more of this country and live together with Yuily longer. So, I made the decision for myself to apply for a visa. There is even an online application form, but all it did was put my details in a pdf that I still had to print, sign and send to my local Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO, functions as an embassy). Enclosed I had to send my passport, proof of funds and insurance along with the application fee in cash. Okay, so a bit more traditional than the New Zealand one, which is as easy as filling out a form online and paying by credit card.
Fair enough the turnaround was legendarily quick: I had my passport back within three days with the visa in it and they even enclosed the change along with a receipt. So far, so good, and I was getting psyched for my year in Formosa. A bit naive on my side as I later realized.
The months ticked by and the time to our departure to Taiwan drew in, so it was time for me to make some more solid plans. I already had the idea to do some language teaching, mostly English, but as I started to conduct some research my own naivety quickly dawned on me: I’m not an English native speaker and I had basically no experience in teaching the language. Who, in their right mind, would actually employ me as a teacher? On top of that I found that it’s strictly speaking illegal for a non-native speaker to teach English in Taiwan. With my Mandarin skills also far from fluent, what kind of jobs could I actually get?
On top of that, there was a daunting prospect: My Working Holiday Visa didn’t make me eligible for a Taiwanese Alien Residence Permit, short ARC. This is the thing that every institution in Taiwan requests from a foreigner, without which it’s very hard to apply for anything, from a job to a bank account to a supermarket discount card. I explained this hardship to TECO, to which they answered that I’m supposed to mostly travel, and not mostly work, on my visa.
Sure, there was the possibility of teaching the language that I’m a native speaker of, but I wasn’t counting on my chances of there being enough people wanting to learn German in Taiwan. As the days to our flight counted by I became more and more nervous about everything, thinking I’ve made a mistake. But I wasn’t going to give up before going – I was still going to go out of my comfort zone and have a taste of this new adventure.