So you’ve made the decision to abandon everything you hold dear, to throw caution into the nearest dumpster and to head off to the mystic East. In the words of Billy Connolly, you’re about to become “wind-swept and interesting”. As aspirations for life go, this is not a bad one.
This post will deal with Travel Visa’s, Jobs and Agents…
Firstly, Travel Visas.
I am working on the assumption that you are a qualified (Bachelor’s Degree, not necessarily a teaching qualification) individual, with a passport from an English speaking country. Sadly, this excludes Germans, Swedes and Spaniards etc… your countries are not deemed “English” and will not be granted a Taiwanese work permit for English teaching. The UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand… you’re fine.
Travel Visas are going to be dependent on your home country. By and large, most Western countries get a 30 to 90 day visa on landing. South Africans, this does not apply to you. (As is usual SA gets screwed on landing visas.) This site gives an excellent breakdown of the various countries . You should be able to apply for a visa at your local consulate or embassy, and the process will take anywhere between 2 weeks and 2 months, depending on your country, and your situation. You are going to need to furnish a return ticket or proof of onward journey for the visa to be accepted, or for the landing visa to be granted.
Tip: Pay the extra and make sure that your return flight can be changed, and postponed to almost a year later. The standard Taiwanese teaching contract and Residence Permit is valid for a year. If you are sick of the place and want to go home, the ticket can then be used. If you are loving the place and intend returning, well…the ticket can still be used.
Secondly, Jobs and Agents.
Getting employment in Taiwan is perhaps not as easy as it was ten years ago, but it is still pretty basic. If you take nothing else away from this guide, let it be this. YOU DO NOT NEED AN AGENT.
I used an agent when I first came to Taiwan. I not only had to pay for the privilege in my home country, my pay was docked for the first three months in Taiwan. (This was explained as a “probationary” salary, not a deduction. It was only by chance that I discovered that the difference was being paid to my agent.) They promised support and aid, and nothing ever came of it. They basically found me a job….REALLY easy, then took advantage of my inexperience to make plenty of money. I landed up in a horrible little farming town, with a school manager that clearly had no love lost with foreign teachers. It was terrible.
You will find plenty of work available on the various forums devoted to expatriate life in Taiwan. The best one is Forumosa . That site is devoted primarily to Taipei living. If Kaohsiung is more your style, there is a Yahoo group called “Kaohsiung_living”. Check it out.
If you want to work legally, you will need to have a Bachelor’s Degree from a recognised University. It is not required that you have a TEFL qualification, although that might sweeten the pot a little. It is not required that you have a teaching qualification, although that too will make things easier for you. Resist the temptation to use a fake degree. The Taiwanese have begun clamping down on that, and deportation is never cool.
You will need to have a medical test done at a recognised hospital. The names vary according to your city. The best bet is to either enquire at the hospital, or to ask your prospective school. The medical test is blood and a minor physical including x-rays. They will screen for drugs, and they will refuse you your clearance if they find any. If you intend using drugs, and coming to Taiwan, detox before the test. (And think carefully about doing drugs here… it is a capital offense to smuggle drugs and they are really serious about sentencing users.) AIDS and pregnancy will also land you in hot water.
Tip: If you can do it, do the test ASAP. It takes about ten working days to process, and is valid for 3 months, which is basically as long as your visitors visa. You cannot get the paperwork started for your work visa until you have the hospital papers in hand. Getting it done early saves time. (It should cost around NT$ 1200.)
Your school will ask you to sign a contract, and will then apply for your ARC. The ARC is your “green card”… your Alien Residence Certificate. It allows you to exit and enter Taiwan, and is used for identity basically everywhere. It is valid for one year, as is your contract. (Usually.) Your ARC is gold to you. Keep it, don’t lose it. Once you have a school, you are good to go.
Tip: Although the practice is dying out, it was common for Taiwanese employers to include “security deposits” in your contract. Basically, they take a chunk of cash every month, and the money is only paid over to you when you complete the contract… security on you finishing your contract. This is illegal. They know it. You should know it too. If they insist on the clause, or try and take it out of your pay… WALK AWAY. If they get pushy, phone the Foreign Affairs police and report them. The fine is more than they would make off of you.
Once you have your ARC, you will have access to Health Insurance. (More on this later.)Your life here can start.
If you are working in a big city, you should be asking for roughly NT$600 per hour. Any less than NT$550 is a waste of time and money. Do not sign up for anything less than 14 hours per week. Resist the temptation to sign up for more than 30 hours a week… at least until you know you can handle it. When you are signing on, make sure that your working hour commitment is agreed on. There are many schools that demand and expect huge amounts of “office hours” to go with the teaching hours. Use your discretion. Or ask the other foreign teachers what they think.Actually, that’s a pretty good idea for any job.
Bear in mind that it is currently illegal for foreign teachers to teach kindergarten students. That said, there are thousands of foreign kindergarten teachers in Taiwan. Just be warned.
If you have any questions on any of the above, or if you are feeling lost… drop a comment in the box, and I will do what I can.
(Next week: Accommodation.)