A couple weeks ago I was discussing work visa and Alien Permanent Resident Certificate (APRC) status with a friend and, as is so often the case, I learned some surprising things by listening to another foreigner’s uniquely Taiwan experience. I’ll relate the basics of that discussion and its enlightening points here, along with some notes worth considering if/when you find yourself in a situation where you might have the option to choose between family and regular APRC acquisition. As ever, I’m not an expert on the confounding and labyrinthine ways of governmental processes, paperwork, and residency, so if I’ve made errors here, please do drop me a line or comment and I’ll do my best to get it right.
First, the housekeeping for this topic. As you may know, there are (at least?) three ways to obtain an APRC in Taiwan. Here’s a quick, general breakdown of each:
- The Foreign Professional APRC – Foreigners can apply for this permanent residency visa after living and working on a continuous ARC (changing companies is allowed) for five consecutive years, spending at least 183 days per year in Taiwan and earning at least double the Taiwan minimum wage over the course of the year. One unique benefit of this APRC is that the holder needs to only spend one day every five years in Taiwan to maintain it.
- The Family-based APRC – As the spouse or child of a native Taiwanese citizen, one must reside in Taiwan for five consecutive years while registered for the Joint Family Residence Visa (JFRV) for over 183 days per year, or reside in Taiwan for 10 consecutive years for over 183 days in at least five of those years.
- APRC Plum Blossom Program – This program is aimed at uniquely qualified, skilled professionals. For those deemed worthy, there are no minimum residency requirements, no income requirements, and no filing fees. (For the purpose of this article, this will be the only mention of the Plum Blossom APRC. Sidebar: I’ve never met anyone who’s been granted this kind of APRC.)
This summer I will reach the fourth of the required five consecutive years to become eligible to apply for the regular APRC. As fortune would have it, I’m engaged to be married to a (smart, beautiful, loving) Taiwanese (Hi, honey!). In the course of the discussion mentioned above, my friend pointed out that this raises something of a unique opportunity with respect to my eventual permanent residency. I have the option to continue my current work path or to switch my residency path by filing for a JFRV when I sign marriage paperwork with my fiancée.
A number of considerable benefits are available to APRC holders that are not available to ARC holders. Here are a few worth noting:
- Open work permit – Any company can hire you without having to pay for your work permit and you can legally hold more than one job. This allows for great flexibility and more control over your work situations.
- No more 2 years’ experience – With an APRC, a company in any industry can hire you with or without the required two years of relevant industry experience required for ARC holders. You do have to file an exemption for this one, the application is here.
- You don’t have to have a job – Your visa allows you to stay in Taiwan as long as you’d like, with or without a job.
- Less annual renewals – No expiring ARCs to maintain and pay for, no mandatory health checks.
Bringing this back to my current situation, there are a couple of possible benefits, depending on which way I decide to go with my paperwork. Should I simply continue working in Taiwan without breaking my current ARC, I’ll achieve APRC eligibility in the summer of 2020. If I go this route, I’ll always control my own destiny, so to speak, as my APRC and open work permit will always be assigned directly to me. Alternately, I could change course and elect to file for a JFRV after signing marriage paperwork with my partner. On the upside, switching to a JFRV immediately qualifies me for an open work permit. This can be helpful in certain job seeking situations as some companies are unable to file for ARCs, some have reached their limit for ARCs, and some are simply more inclined to hire candidates that require less fees and paperwork.
Staying the course and obtaining my APRC via my working status comes with virtually no risk as long as I don’t break my ARC between now and my five-year benchmark achievement. However, should I elect to file for a JFRV and switch my residency path to become reliant on my partner, two very important things happen. First, my APRC clock resets to zero. One common misconception in Taiwan is that getting married essentially gets you an APRC, and that’s not true. If your residency is family-based, then you still have a five-year waiting period to achieve permanent residency. The second important thing that would happen if I file for a JFRV is that my residency becomes dependent on my partner. This is relevant because…shit happens.
The reason that the conversation I had with my friend held a good bit of intrigue was not limited to the decision-making position that I learned I’m in at the moment. It was made doubly interesting by the fact that, as an artist, he had found it beneficial to utilize the JFRV to create the freedom to not rely on a visa from an employer. This allowed him to forego having a day job when he wanted so that he could focus on his art, so he willingly traded more than three years of working ARC status for an immediate open work visa. But – and I guess this is the real cautionary tale of this post – unfortunately his relationship didn’t last and he found himself divorced and is now back at zero on his residency clock.
The Decision is Yours
In the end, we all get to choose our own adventure with respect to our APRC eligibility. Despite the unfortunate outcome in my friend’s case, he had a perfectly legitimate reason to want to achieve an open work permit as soon as possible. Surely, there are others who’ve made such a decision and had it work out for them. But my friend’s advice to me – and anyone with a few years toward APRC status in the bank and an upcoming wedding – was to complete the APRC based on the work time I’ve already earned and thereby control my own residency in Taiwan.