Taiwan in recent years has been facing rising competition for foreign talent along with a brain drain of domestic professionals. To fill the talent and technology gap for industries, the government enacted the Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals on February 8, 2018 to ease visa, work, and residency regulations for overseas professionals who wish to come to Taiwan. The act also offered improved insurance, taxation and retirement benefits in order to create a friendlier work and living environment.
On July 7, 2021, the government promulgated amendments to this act to boost Taiwan's ability to recruit and retain international talent. In addition to supporting the nation's "five plus two" innovative industries and the Six Core Strategic Industries, the changes are designed to meet urgent demands for talent and prepare for the effects of a repositioned post-pandemic global supply chain on the flow of international talent. Provisions include further easing work and residency regulations for foreign professionals and offering more tax incentives and social protections, all with the aim of allowing more foreign talent to come to and stay in Taiwan.
A. Recruitment targets
1. Foreign professionals: A foreign professional is engaged in specialized work. Examples include:
■ A specialized or technical worker; an executive at a business invested in by overseas Chinese or foreigners; a school teacher; a sports coach or athlete; a religious, artistic or show business worker; or a teacher at a short-term cram school class
■ An advisor or researcher at an academic or research institution, or a researcher or lecturer at a public or private university
■ An experimental education worker as defined by the three experimental education laws (i.e., Enforcement Act for Non-school-based Experimental Education at Senior High School Level or Below, Enforcement Act for School-based Experimental Education, and Act Governing the Commissioning of the Operation of Public Schools at Senior High School Level or Below to the Private Sector for Experimental Education)
■ A foreign subject teacher employed to teach special classes for children of foreign professionals
2. Foreign special professionals: A foreign special professional must meet certain requirements and possess expertise of the type needed by Taiwan. Examples 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
■ An international award-winning professional whose employment serves the interests of Taiwan
3. Foreign senior professionals: A foreign senior professional must possess high-level expertise of the type needed by Taiwan in accordance with the Immigration Act. Examples include:
■ An individual having distinctive talent in scientific and technological R&D or managerial work at a special technology center or scientific and technological institute
■ An individual possessing unique capabilities in science, research, industry, commerce or teaching that enable the person to make exceptional contributions to Taiwan's economy, industry, education or welfare
■ An individual who has earned top awards or honors at prestigious international competitions
B. Highlights of the act
1. Work, visa and residency requirements relaxed
■ Visas for job seekers: Job-seeking visas are designed for foreign nationals who wish to engage in professional employment in Taiwan but may require a longer time period to find an appropriate position. The visa allows for a total stay of up to six months.
■ Employment Gold Cards: A foreign special professional planning to engage in professional work in Taiwan may apply to the National Immigration Agency for a four-in-one Employment Gold Card (personal work permit), which functions as a work permit, resident visa, alien resident certificate and reentry permit. The card, valid for one to three years, may be extended before expiry, and the card holder may apply for two residency extensions of six months each.
■ Personal work permits for freelance artists: A foreign artist may apply directly to the Ministry of Labor for permission to work in Taiwan.
■ Exemption from applying for work permits: Foreign professionals and their dependent relatives need not apply for work permits once they have gained permanent residency.
■ Foreign teachers possessing specialized knowledge or skills permitted to work at cram schools: Cram school employers may hire foreign teachers with specialized knowledge or skills for short-term courses in subjects other than language, such as in gaming education, computer animation or motion sensing technology.
■ Special classes for children of foreign professionals permitted to employ foreigners as subject teachers: In addition to experimental high school bilingual departments or bilingual schools, Ministry of Education-approved special classes for children of foreign professionals may also employ foreigners to teach math, chemistry and other subjects.
■ Graduates of top universities worldwide do not require two years' work experience to come to work in Taiwan : This measure is designed to attract high-caliber expectant graduates to take up specialized or technical work in Taiwan, infusing fresh water into the talent pool.
■ Work permit duration increased: The maximum duration of a work permit for a foreign special professional has been extended to five years, while a further extension may be granted upon expiry.
■ Exemption from applying for resident visa: A foreign professional or foreign special professional who enters Taiwan visa-free or on a visitor visa may apply directly for a residency permit, simplifying application procedures for working in Taiwan.
■ Permanent residency requirements eased: The required presence in Taiwan for foreign professionals applying for permanent residency has been changed from 183 days per year to an average of 183 days per year. The required period of presence for foreign special professionals applying for permanent residency has been shortened to three years. The required presence for foreign professionals and foreign special professionals applying for permanent residency may be reduced by one to two years if they have obtained a master's or doctoral degree in Taiwan.
2. Rules relaxed for dependent relatives
■ Where a foreign special professional has obtained permanent residency, his or her dependent relatives, after having resided in Taiwan lawfully and continuously for three years, may apply for permanent residency without having to provide proof of financial ability. (For foreign professionals with permanent residency, his or her dependent relatives may apply for permanent residency after having resided in Taiwan continuously for five years.)
■ Dependent relatives of foreign senior professionals may apply for permanent residency together with the professional.
■ Adult children of certain types of foreign professionals—namely, foreign professionals engaged in professional work in Taiwan, freelance artists not hired by an employer, foreign special professionals and foreign senior professionals—who meet specific residency conditions may apply for personal work permits.
■ Lineal ascendants of foreign special professionals (including those not hired as employees but have come to Taiwan to start businesses or set up companies) may apply for visitor visas for stays of up to one year.
■ Dependent relatives of naturalized Taiwan citizens may use some provisions of the foreign professionals recruitment act (including visitor visas for lineal ascendants, permanent residency, and personal work permits). This is intended to provide more incentives for bright talent to stay in Taiwan.
3. Tax incentives and social protections optimized
■ Stronger retirement protection: A foreign national (including freelance artists not hired by an employer and foreign special professionals) approved for permanent residency may be covered under Taiwan's new labor pension system. A foreign national employed as a full-time teacher within the headcount budget of a public school in Taiwan, or as a researcher at research institutes such as Academia Sinica, and who is approved for permanent residency, may receive a monthly pension in retirement.
■ Looser restrictions on national health insurance: Foreign specialists employed to work in Taiwan, foreign special and senior professionals who are employers or self-employed business owners, together with their dependent relatives, may receive national health insurance coverage without having to wait six months.
■ Tax benefits: Foreign special professionals will be exempt from taxation on half of any salary income in excess of NT$3 million (US$107,000) for the first five years of employment in Taiwan.