On July 17th, 2020, Taiwan’s government announced a “fifth and final” automatic extension for foreign nationals stuck in Taiwan due to COVID-19. If you’re looking to stay longer, one way is to find a job. Another way is to work on building your own company, and you can get started on that path by taking advantage of Taiwan’s Entrepreneur visa.
This article is a guide for what to expect when applying for the Entrepreneur Visa.
Our goal is to point you to the right resources, but we remind you to consult with professionals like Futureward, 11th Fleet, EZPermit or ProJoy Immigration if you have any questions.
So you’ve gotten a taste for Taiwan: the beaches, the hot springs, and the tofu. But finding a way to stay in Taiwan to enjoy that tofu can take a good amount of work.
Let’s take a look at some foreigners in that very predicament:
Alex, Ben, and Chris are foreigners recently arrived from the EU who want to set up a business in Taiwan, but want time to work on their business ideas before they formally set up the company, and without the hassle of visa runs. They can apply for the visa either as individuals, or as a group. They can all take advantage of Taiwan’s entrepreneur visa to stay in Taiwan with a valid, multiple-entry visa for one year.
What is the entrepreneur visa? Do I need to have a company before I apply for it?
The entrepreneur visa was created by the Taiwanese government for the purposes of helping foreigners set up businesses in Taiwan more easily. It allows foreigners to live in Taiwan as they prepare to set up their company. You don’t need to have a Taiwanese company set up before you apply for the visa. And whether you actually do set up that company is up to you – if you don’t, no harm, no foul.
This visa is a good start for our 3 entrepreneurs, Alex, Ben, and Chris. Up to three foreigners can be part of the same entrepreneur application. If they succeed, they can all stay in Taiwan for a year.
Are the requirements for the Entrepreneur visa really strict?
You might think that it might be hard to obtain an entrepreneur visa. But actually, it can be quite easy.
According to the government’s criteria, you have to fulfill just one of the eligibility requirements.
Most of these requirements are pretty heavy-duty. However, if you apply under the fourth requirement, getting the visa is extremely easy:
4. The business was stationed within one year before the application, or is currently stationed in an international start-up park or registered under a project approved by the central government or any local government of the Republic of China.
Basically, that means you just need to work in a government sponsored co-working space to be eligible. So you’ll have to pay a fee to a co-working space or start-up park, so that they’ll agree to “sponsor” your visa, but that’s really the only hurdle!
One good option is Futureward co-working space. They issued the very first entrepreneur visas, so they have the experience and know-how to help you get through the process. Futureward provides 2 options for applying for the entrepreneur visa:
- Renting a desk at the co-working space, or
- Working from home
There is very different pricing for these two separate options, so please inquire with Futureward for more info.
If Futureward is not close to you, see page 2 of this PDF for a list of other government approved co-working spaces that can help you get the Entrepreneur visa.
What are the costs for getting the Entrepreneur visa?
Depending on your nationality, the Visa and ARC can cost $4,000 – 8,000 NT. On top of that, in order to make use of the co-working space option, you may have to pay $12,000 NT or more for one year of co-working space rental.
What is the timeline for getting the Entrepreneur visa?
The average duration to get the visa (and secure your residency) is 4 – 6 weeks.
Here is a breakdown of the timeline:
- 1 day to 2 weeks for a co-working space to approve your rental request and provide you with a rental agreement.
- 1 week to get your documents in order
- 1 day to submit the documents to BOCA (Bureau of Consular Affairs). Go early to avoid the crowd!
- 2.5 weeks for the Ministry of Economics approval process
- BOCA will call or email you to notify if you’ve been approved
- 1 day to bring your passport to the BOCA office for processing
- 1 week until you can come get your passport with your new visa!
- You can now stay in Taiwan worry-free
- After that you have 2 weeks to get your ARC from the National Immigration Agency. Take your passport, bring a passport photo, the original + a copy of your housing rental contract, and fill out the paper form when you get there.
If my current visa will expire before the Entrepreneur visa process is finished, will I be granted permission to stay until my Entrepreneur visa is processed?
According to Chinese language documentation on BOCA’s website, your visa application will go through the MOEA (Ministry of Economic Affairs) first, in order to check your eligibility. Once you get approval from MOEA, you’ll be called or emailed with the good news. Then you need to submit your passport to BOCA at least 8 days before your visa expires (step f. in the timeline above).
If your current visa expires before then, or if MOEA rejects your Entrepreneur visa application, you will be subject to overstay penalties upon leaving the country. If you overstay less than 91 days, you will be required to pay $2,000 – $10,000 NT, based on your length of overstay, and you will not be granted a visa-waiver or landing visa for one year; this means that you will need to apply for a visa the next time you wish to re-enter Taiwan, if you want to come back within a year.
What else does it take to apply for the Entrepreneur Visa using the co-working space requirement?
It’s quite simple but time consuming to apply for the visa. There are many documents you will need to prepare for the application. The co-working space you work with should be able to help explain them to you if you have questions, but here are the basics:
1) A letter introducing your company and yourself.
The letter should:
- Provide info on why you love Taiwan and why you chose Taiwan to open your business
- Explain how your business will benefit Taiwan (be sure to include any awards you’ve won, newspaper articles, etc.)
- Explain what your business does that Taiwan doesn’t already have
There is no required format, but you can take a look at our sample letter format here:
We’ve also included a few real sample letters from successful visa recipients as well. This one is for a digital services provider:
This one is for a consulting service:
Note well: You will also need to get this letter translated into Chinese, so have a friend or professional translator help you with this if you don’t know Chinese.
2) A signed contract from your co-working space indicating that they have agreed to provide you with space.
5) You need to fill out the online BOCA Visa Application Form
– When you get to the site click “Confirm & Continue”
– Make sure to choose “General Visa Application”
– Fill out the form, submit it, and remember to print a hard copy for submission
The form asks for your “Planned arrival date” in Taiwan. If you are already in Taiwan, put at least one day in the future. For “Planned date of leaving Taiwan”, it’s a good idea to just put one year from now.
6) Your Passport (also a photocopy of your passport)
7) 2 color passport-size photos (within 6 months)
Take all these forms to BOCA, pay the visa fee, and wait. See the timeline above for timeline details.
If I apply for the visa, will I really get it?
According to government figures, as of Q4 2019, there were ~280 people who applied for the entrepreneur visa: out of those, ~240 people got it. What’s that tell us? With 85% of applicants receiving the visa, it tells us that it’s pretty easy to get. And with such low numbers of applicants over the 4 years the visa has been available, it also tells us that not many people know just how easy it is to get.
I’ve gotten my entrepreneur visa, what’s next?
Great! You’ve applied via the co-working space requirement or another requirement, and you’ve got your Entrepreneur visa. Congratulations, you can now stay in Taiwan legally for one year!
You then take your Entrepreneur visa and passport, a passport-size photo, and the original + a copy of your housing rental contract to the National Immigration Agency, and apply for your new ARC. This process takes at least a week. Now you can use your Entrepreneur visa to stay in Taiwan, get started on your own company, possibly work for another company, or do whatever you want, really. But remember that you’ll most likely need to find another way to stay in Taiwan in one year’s time, unless you can qualify for Entrepreneur visa renewal, which is much harder!
What does the Entrepreneur Visa do for me?
- Gives you one year of legal residence in Taiwan that counts toward an APRC
- Allow you to work on your startup in Taiwan legally
- After 6 months, allows you to enroll in Taiwanese Health Care (get an NHI jianbao card). According to this website:
“Those without a fixed employer or family members with whom dependency can be claimed, must, after six months of consecutive residence, enroll through the local administrative office where they reside.”
Can I now take money from customers in Taiwan? If so, how?
The best course of action is to get your company set up so that you can invoice customers and pay taxes on your income officially. We recommend you consult an accountant or immigration attorney for more information.
Can I work for someone else in Taiwan using my entrepreneur visa?
“To sum up, foreigners who are permitted to engage in investment and entrepreneurship activities and provide labor services, or work for others are two different things. Based on the protection of the employment rights of Taiwanese people, even if foreigners hold entrepreneur visas, if they want to be employed in Taiwan to engage in the professional work specified in Article 46 of this Law, the employer shall still apply to this Ministry for permission in accordance with the regulations.”
So your potential employer will need to apply for permission, which they may or may not get.
What happens a year from now, when the entrepreneur visas expire?
Let’s say our friends Alex, Ben, and Chris decide to formally set up their Taiwanese company. One year from now, when the 3 entrepreneur visas expire, the team will be faced with a serious situation. They can try to re-apply for the entrepreneur visa, the process of which is very nebulous; to learn more, please read about My Room Abroad’s experience.
If they don’t get their visas renewals approved, everyone is basically on their own. If they’ve set up a Taiwan-registered company by this point, the CEO of the company (in this case Alex) can apply for his own “Company Manager” visa and work permit through the company. In order to do this, the company needs to have 500,000 NTD in the bank.
If Ben and Chris want to get resident visas through the company, the company needs to have 5,000,000 NTD in the bank. In reality, it will be very difficult for a small business to keep this much money in a bank account for a year, and Ben and Chris will have to find another way to stay in the country. They could each set up their own companies (for 500,000 NTD each), but if they don’t have the money to do that, they will most likely have to work under the table if they still want to work on the company.
If the company was set up as a branch office or a representative office, there may be other options available. Hopefully they hired a good accountant and discussed these possibilities with him/her before they started the company.
Is there another, better way for me to stay in Taiwan?
Another type of residency solution that can be easy to obtain is the Taiwan Gold Card, using the Ministry of Economics requirement. The Taiwan Gold Card provides you with:
- An open work permit (You can work for almost any company without permission from the government, almost like a Taiwanese citizen)
- Taiwanese healthcare
- 3 years of legal residence in Taiwan that counts toward the 5 years required in order to gain permanent residency
- … and more!
Learn more about some real people who have gotten the Gold Card:
The Gold Card can take several months to apply for, so if your visa situation is urgent, you may want to stick to the Entrepreneur visa for now. Most of the requirements for the Gold Card are also very strict, just like the Entrepreneur visa. But there is one slightly easier way to get this visa too.
Check approval method #1: If you made a salary of more than 160K NTD / month in the last three years, you are eligible for the gold card. This should be very easy for many Canadians and Americans who have real world experience in their home countries.
If you meet the requirements for the Taiwan Gold Card, we highly recommend you apply for that instead of applying for the Entrepreneur visa. However, not everyone has extremely specialized experience, or meets the salary requirements. In addition, there is apparently a yearly audit of your finances to see if you still meet the required salary the following year — if you don’t, you may lose your gold card.
If you live in Taiwan teaching English, or you’re not from North America, it’s unlikely that you meet this requirement. But you could still apply for, and get, the Entrepreneur visa.
Here’s a list of pros and cons of both residency programs:
|Entrepreneur Visa||Gold Card|
|+ Takes 4 -6 weeks for the total application process||– Can take several months to finish the application process|
|+ Can live in Taiwan for 1 year, but extending the visa is challenging||+ Can live in Taiwan up to 3 years|
|– Allowed to work for another company if approved by the Ministry of Labor||+ Open work permit included (Allowed to work for any company)|
|– Eligible for Taiwan’s NHI program after 6 consecutive months of residency||+ Taiwan health insurance included|
|+ 3 people can apply together||– Only one person at a time can apply|
|+ Can get easily based on renting space in a co-working space||+ Can get easily depending on your previous income, however, there may be a yearly audit of your finances to see if you still meet the required salary|
|– Dependants can join you, but there are no privileges for visiting, non-dependant family||+ Dependants can join you, AND visiting parents and grandparents can stay up to one year|
The Entrepreneur visa seems very restrictive compared to the Gold Card!
Yes, the Entrepreneur visa really could be modified further to help visa holders build successful businesses. It’s very strange that the visa doesn’t give you more time to bootstrap. As an immigration consultant we contacted noted:
“By the time you’ve got your company set up, you’re so busy trying to gather paperwork to justify your visa renewal, you won’t have time to run your company. I don’t understand why the visa doesn’t give you at least 2 years from the start.”
Here’s hoping the Taiwanese legislature can extend the Entrepreneur visa length, and provide some extra benefits when receiving the visa, but until then, our newly minted entrepreneurs Alex, Ben, and Chris can still enjoy Taiwan, and its many kinds of tofu, without the need to do visa runs.