Strategies to recruit and retain foreign professionals

  • Date: 2017-06-19

I. Background

In today’s global knowledge economy, countries around the world are vying to recruit the best and brightest minds to strengthen the core of their national competitiveness. But amid this intensely competitive environment, Taiwan has been unable to offer sufficient incentives to attract overseas professionals, and the nation’s brain drain and skilled labor shortage has only grown worse by the day.

To attract and recruit more professionals from other countries, the Executive Yuan on October 19, 2016 approved a program called Perfect Taiwan’s Environment for Retaining Talent. Its objectives are to fill gaps in Taiwan’s technical labor shortage, help Taiwanese companies expand globally, drive industrial development, enhance the international mindsets and employability of the Taiwanese, and steer Taiwan’s transformation toward a high-tech, high value-added economy. The program contains short, medium and long-term reform strategies to address major issues foreigners face when coming to Taiwan, including visas, employment, residency, finances, taxes, insurance and an international living environment.

The Executive Yuan also proposed a draft Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professional Talent on April 20, 2017 to consolidate the legislative amendments required to change the talent retention system. This draft act, if passed by the Legislature, will ease restrictions on visas, residency, taxes, insurance and retirement benefits, without changing the qualifications required of foreigners seeking work in Taiwan or the government’s standards for reviewing those applications. All of these efforts are designed to create a friendlier work environment that will attract world professionals and keep them in Taiwan for the long term.
II. Increase employment flexibility to meet industry needs

The recruitment and employment draft act targets three types of foreign professionals:

A. General professionals:

General professionals may apply for six types of work as provided in the Employment Service Act: as a specialized or technical worker; an executive at a business invested in or set up by overseas Chinese or foreigners with authorization from the government; a school teacher; a full-time foreign language teacher at a cram school; a sports coach or athlete; or a religious, artistic or show business worker. In addition, the professional may work as a teacher of a special field or skill at a short-term cram school class.

B. Special professionals:

Special professional are individuals with expertise and skills of the type needed by Taiwan. The conditions for hiring special professionals will be defined by government agencies according to the nature and needs of each industry. Examples of special professionals include a senior executive or director at a multinational firm, operational headquarters or R&D branch in Taiwan; an academician at a national science academy, or a national academy-level scholar; a person of outstanding talent who has worked in a focal industry promoted by the government, and is able to substantively contribute to industrial upgrading and transformation in Taiwan; and an international award-winning professional whose employment benefits the interests of Taiwan.

C. Senior professionals:

Senior professionals are those possessing high-level expertise and skills needed by Taiwan. According to Article 25, Paragraph 3, Subparagraph 2 of the Immigration Act, foreign senior professionals applying for work in Taiwan should have distinctive talent in scientific and technological R&D or managerial work at a special technology or scientific and technological institute; possess special abilities in science, research, industry, commerce or teaching that enable them to make exceptional contributions to Taiwan’s economy, industry, education or welfare; or have been conferred top awards or honors at prestigious international competitions.


III. Five proposed reforms to attract foreign professionals

A. Work visa and residency

1. Work permits for foreign teachers will be issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in the future. Cram schools will be permitted to hire foreign teachers for short-term technical or art classes. Foreign artistic workers may apply for individual work permits themselves without going through an employer.

2. A foreign special professional who wishes to work in Taiwan may apply for the four-in-one Employment Gold Card that functions as a work permit, resident visa, Alien Resident Certificate and reentry permit. The card will not be tied to an employer and will allow the professional to change jobs freely.

3. In the case of a foreign special professional, the maximum term for work and residence permits will be extended from three years to five years, and the requirement of residence in Taiwan for more than 183 days each year will be eliminated.

B. Residency for parents, spouse and children

1. Family visit stays by lineal ascendants: For a foreign special professional, the maximum length of a family visit stay by a lineal ascendant will be extended to one year per stay.

2. Work permits for adult children: If a foreign professional has been approved for permanent residency in Taiwan, his or her adult children who meet prescribed residency conditions may apply for individual work permits.

3. Permanent residence for spouse and minor children: When a foreign senior professional applies for permanent residence, his or her spouse and minor children may apply for permanent residence together with the professional. For a foreign general professional who has been approved for permanent residence, his or her spouse and minor children may apply for permanent residence after having resided in Taiwan lawfully and continuously for five years.

C. Job-seeking visas

1. Qualifications: To qualify for a job-seeking visa, foreign nationals with work experience must have earned the equivalent of at least NT$47,971 (US$1,580) per month prior to coming to Taiwan. Those without work experience must have graduated from a university ranked among the top 500 in the world.

2. Scope of job search: Foreign nationals using this visa may only seek professional work, and may not seek nontechnical jobs or traditional labor opportunities.

3. Length of stay: In principle, the job-seeking visa is valid for a stay of up to six months (but may be extended one time for up to six more months if necessary). The individual may not use the same reason again to enter Taiwan within three years.

4. Quota: The government will annually review and announce the quota for job-seeking visas.

D. Internship visas for students and recent graduates

1. Qualifications: To qualify for an internship visa, the applicant must be currently enrolled in, or have graduated within two years from, an institution on a list of overseas universities compiled by the MOE (currently focusing on the top 500 universities worldwide).

2. Scope of internships: Foreign nationals using this visa may only work at internships in specialized or technical fields, and may not take on nontechnical jobs or traditional labor.

3. Length of stay: For general internships, the maximum length of stay is one year (the visa is valid for six months initially and extendable one time for up to six more months). For specialized internships in fields including science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the maximum stay is two years.

4. Quota: The government will annually review and announce the quota for internship visas.

E. Taxes, retirement and health insurance

1. Retirement and health insurance benefits: A foreign professional who has been approved for permanent residence will be covered under Taiwan’s new labor pension system. A full-time, qualified, paid foreign teacher within a public school’s budgeted personnel system, and who has been approved for permanent residence, may elect to receive a monthly pension upon retirement. If a foreign professional is hired to work in Taiwan, his or her spouse and minor children, having obtained documentary proof of residence, will no longer have to wait six months to be eligible for Taiwan’s national health insurance.

2. Taxes: During the first three years of employment in Taiwan, a foreign special professional will be taxed on only half of his or her income in excess of NT$2 million (US$65,900). Income earned overseas will also be excluded from basic income tax calculations.

IV. Conclusion

Human resources form the core of Taiwan’s competitiveness and the foundation of its national and industrial development. As Taiwan seeks to transform itself into an innovative economy, it will be of vital importance to create an international environment and cultivate globally minded people capable of integrating systems and processes and working across disciplines. Recruiting bright talent from other countries will help drive Taiwan’s industrial and technological upgrading, and can be one of the most effective ways to improve Taiwan’s investment environment, salary levels and overall competitive abilities.