Most foreigners who come to Taiwan assume the only way they can stay is if they get a job teaching English, but entrepreneurship opens up nearly unlimited potential for making your way in Taiwan.
This article was written to give you a basic understanding of how to get Taiwan’s Entrepreneur Visa in January 2021. I’ve included lots of resources but this is not an exhaustive explanation, so I encourage you to consult with professionals like CIT (Center For Innovation Taiwan) before applying.
Thanks to Taiwan’s Entrepreneur Visa I’m currently running my US based startup in Taiwan, and loving it. People back home often imagine I’m trapped in an urban jungle, eating Thai food every day, or that I’m living locked down under the cold tyranical hand of the Communist Chinese authority -the reality is quite different.
Taiwan is it’s own unique place.
Roughly the size of the Netherlands, this peaceful, independent,* and highly developed democratic nation of about 24 million is situated in between Japan and the Philippines in the South China Sea. It’s the unofficial inventor of Boba-Tea, full of natural beauty, and probably the place that makes the chip that’s making your smart phone “smart.” Taiwan also has it’s own unique culture, history, languages, traditions, currency, military, government etc.
For a list of 10 of the reasons foreigners like me decide to stay, aside from the fact that Taiwan beat COVID-19 click here.
Taiwan’s entrepreneur Visa is a great option for foreigners looking to set up a business or business branch in Taiwan. You can apply for this visa as an individual, or as a group of up to 3 people. To qualify, each member must be a key team member (co-founder, CTO, VP, administrator, ect). If you want to bring an employee or contractor over who isn’t a key team member the requirements are different, and this article doesn’t cover that process.
Once obtained you’ll be able to stay for a year while figuring out your business model and preparing to set up your business. You won’t need to do visa runs to stay, but since it’s a multiple-entry visa, if do you need to leave and come back within that year it won’t be a problem either.
You won’t be required to formally the set up your company in Taiwan before applying, and if at the end of the year you decide not to do so it’s also not a problem.
Depending on which country the applicant is from the total cost of the Entrepreur Visa and ARC is anywhere from $4,000–8,000 NTD per person (roughly $140–280 USD).
One of the most common paths to the Visa is by gaining membership at an approved co-working space or incubator. The cost for membership per year usually starts at around $4,000 NTD per month for shared “hot-desk” style spaces, and around $18,500 NTD for private cubicles.
CIT is the Best Co-Working Space Option In Downtown Taipei
It seems Taiwan’s Entrepreneur Visa is truly a hidden gem for the would be entrepreneur. In fact, as of December 2019 Taiwan had only received 280 applicants for the Visa, but approved 240 of the applicants. This works out to a roughly 85% acceptance rate in the Visa’s 4 year history. Acceptance depends, of course, on the individual applicant, but in general it appears getting the Entrepreneur Visa isn’t too difficult.
If you’re abroad you need to apply at a Taiwanese embassy, consulate, or diplomatic mission, often called a Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office. If one of these isn’t near you, you will likely to need to find an agent to deliver the forms and required documents on your behalf.
If you’re already in Taiwan on a different Visa you can apply from the Bureau of Consular Affairs or in one of it’s regional branches in Taiwan if you still have 45 days remaining before your current visa expires. If not, you will most likely need to leave Taiwan before applying.
The approximate time to obtain your 1-Year Residency (ARC) via the entreprenuer visa is between 4–9 weeks.
Here’s a rough breakdown of the steps with a rough time frame:
Important Note: Technically the Entrepreneur Visa doesn’t allow you to stay for a year- but it allows you to apply for a 1-year Alien Resident Certificate (ARC). If your Entrepreneur Visa is issued in Taiwan you’ll have 15 days to go to the Bureau of Consular Affairs to apply for the ARC, or if you receive the Visa outside of Taiwan you’ll have 15 days to apply upon arrival.
Taiwan Expo Center, Near CIT coworking space
Everyone entering Taiwan is subject to quarantine at designated facilities which usually cost around $60/day, and most are required upon arrival to present a certified negative test for COVID-19 taken within 3 days of arrving in Taiwan. There are some rare exeptions where the 14 day period can be shortened, and where a COVID-19 test may not be required (Click here for details).
If you’re trying to transfer a visitor visa you need to factor this quarantine time into your equation, since applicants in Taiwan are required to present completed applications and documentation in person to the Bureau of Consular Affairs 45 days before their visa expires.
Maybe you want to visit Taiwan first and explore other options like teaching English before starting your own business here.
Unfortunately, as of March 19th, 2020, Taiwan suspended all Visitor Visas due to COVID-19. This policy was revised on June 29, to allow several exemptions, including Visitor-Visas for certain types of family visits, students, business obligations, and medical emergencies. Click here to see Taiwan’s entire list of approved exemptions that may qualify someone to recieve a visitor visa during COVID-19.
While it’s still theoretically possible to obtain a Visitor Visa first from outside of Taiwan and then apply for an Entrepreneur Visa from within Taiwan at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the process of obtaining an entrepreneur visitor visa is a rather lengthy process as you can see in the above sections (quarantine time plus application time) and it’s very likely you will run out of time, and risk over staying your visa. Please make sure you have plently of time to complete all the steps (see section below) before arranging such a trip by consulting your local Taiwanese Embassy or “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office).
stay tuned to Taiwan’s travel restrictions during COVID-19 —since Taiwan
keeps its policies current based on the need for containing the virus.
Under normal conditions visitors from many countries including the US,
Canada, EU, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea, are eligible for 90 day
tourist visitor visas upon arrival “Visa-Free” without needing to apply
in advance (full list of countries
included), but Taiwan has implemented travel restrictions for tourists
to avoid an outbreak. But the good news is once you get here you will
find life goes on here normally, with no lockdowns, mandatory facemasks
in most places, or other restrictions. That’s because Taiwan’s
strategy has been successful at keeping COVID-19 from becoming a full
blown outbreak, with over 200 consecutive days of no community spread during 2020.
International food being served from 20+ vendors at Maji square, near CIT coworking space.
These are required for all applicants. Whether you’re applying from abroad or already here on an ARC visa, visitor visa, COVID-19 visa extensions, or some other Visa and wanting to secure your place here with an Entrepreneur Visa you will need to get some documents together.
*Note: If you aren’t already in Taiwan please make sure you carefully read the above section: Applying from Outside of Taiwan. If you are here make sure you follow the steps in the above section: Applying From Within Taiwan.
6. Your travel itinerary or copy of an electronic ticket with both inbound and outbound flights to and from Taiwan.
7. The “most recent financial statement for the current account possessed under the name of the applicant. The financial statement must be issued by a recognized bank.” There is no mention of the minimum balance you need to have or if this requirement can be met by a Taiwanese citizen, or the guarantor of your Visa, so if you are concerned, contact your local R.O.C. Bureau of Consular Affairs, or R.O.C. Diplomatic mission if outside of Taiwan.
8. A “self-addressed prepaid courier bag (or a postal bag with tracking facility) if you do not wish to collect the passport from TECO Office. For security reason please do not enclose normal post, self-stamped envelope.”
9. The Visa Application Fee. “The office CANNOT receive Credit Card payments or process EFPOS transactions.” Please make sure to have the payment ready in cash (if paying in person) or by bank check made out to Taipei Economic & Cultural Office.
10. Other supporting documents (to be decided on a case-by-case basis).
Fine Art Park, near CIT Coworking Space.
Important: All foreign applicants inside of the R.O.C. / Taiwan must also apply for a Entrepreneur Resident Visa within 45 days before the duration of stay expires.
Being granted an Entrepreneur Visa is only the first step in getting your Resident Visa which allows you to stay for a year. Foreign applicants must apply for their Entrepreneur Resident Visa at the National Immigration Agency within 15 days of arriving in Taiwan (due to 14 day quarantine the offices may grant you extra time. Check with them first!) If you are already here you will have 2 weeks to apply at the National Immigration Agency.
For more complete information on requirements, to keep up with new releases or updates given by the Taiwanese government or to contact them visit https://www.boca.gov.tw/mp-2.html
If you choose to get your Visa by joining a Taiwan Incubator that has partnered with the National Development Council to be eligible to sponsor your visa you will need to check with the specific Incubator for documents they require (this is not as long as what Taiwan requires in the above). To get more information you can visit the incubator website I recommend https://www.cit.tw or contact them directly by email: email@example.com
The requirements directly below might look overwhelming, but don’t let this intimidate you. We found a relatively simple path almost any business can qualify for in section 4 below which we’ll explain later:
(1) The sales revenue of the applicant’s enterprise for the most recent year, or the average for the most recent three years, is at least NT$3 million.
(2) The operating revenue of the applicant’s enterprise for the most recent year, or the average for the most recent three years, is at least NT$1 million.
(3) The applicant’s enterprise employs at least three full-time Taiwanese nationality employees.
(4) The applicant’s enterprise can demonstrate some other category of operational performance that leads the industry competent authority to determine that the enterprise is making a positive contribution to Taiwan’s economic development.
To review the complete list of requirements click this link.
Most of these are pretty difficult to achieve but you only need to fulfill one of them and requirement #4 is actually quite easy.
In section 4, subsection 4 it reads:
4.4 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.
The most convenient, friendly business incubator in Taiwan, CIT
So Basically, as long as you are working in a government sponsored co-working space or start up park, you could be deemed eligible. You’ll just need to pay the co-working space fee so they’ll agree to “sponsor” your visa!
One good option is CIT (Center for Innovation Taipei) co-working space in Taipei. They regularly issue entrepreneur visas, and have the experience to get through the process. They provide several options including choosing from renting an office space, hot desk, or working from home if you’re worried about COVID-19.
They are very conveniently located near the Yuanshan Metro Station, Taipei Expo Dome, Fine Arts Park, Tatung University; and Maji Square - which features an international selection of foods at affordable prices, a weekly farmers market, and some popular night life spots where ex-pats regularly hang out, in case you need to unwind after a long day.
If CIT isn’t close enough to you here is a list of other government approved co-working spaces that can help you get the Entrepreneur visa.
More established businesses may want to consider getting a regular Business Visa, which can be quite easy, as long as you have a significant amount of money in the bank. More details on the Taiwan Business Visas here.
For a complete list of other Taiwan Visas offered click here.
If you’re already in Taiwan as a resident, and want to transfer to an Entrepreneur visa (which you’ll technically be using to apply for a 1 year ARC) that’s also possible. Make sure you have at least 45 days left on your existing visa and ask permission to apply for a new resident card under a new purpose (entrepreneur) at the Bureau of Consular Affairs - the same as if you come here on a visitor visa.
Taxes: We won’t cover it in this article, but don’t forget to pay taxes to Taiwan if you earn revenue here. It’s best to find an accountant in Taiwan, which are quite affordable.
Healthcare: To find out if you will apply for Taiwan’s great health insurance you can read more here: https://www.nhi.gov.tw
Transportation: If you’re living in Taiwan, it’s definitely a good idea to have access to a scooter, but owning one can be a serious hassle- especially in the city. A great alternative to owning a scooter is a ride share service called SKRT. Simply rent one of many available scooters when you need it, and when you’re done, leave it for the next person.
J Harvey Lewis is the founder of naturehub.com- a platform designed to helps you find and share products & businesses that are healthier & more eco-friendly. Check it out at naturehub.com (web version) or download the mobile app here: Google Play Store and iOS App Store. (currently the app is only available in English).