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. Amid this intensely competitive environment, however, Taiwan has struggled to offer sufficient incentives to attract overseas professionals, and the nation's brain drain and skilled worker shortage have only become more pronounced each day.
To overcome Taiwan's technical talent shortage while supporting national policies like the "five plus two" innovative industries program and the New Southbound Policy, the Executive Yuan drafted the Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals on April 20, 2017. This special act was later promulgated by the president on November 22, 2017 and put into effect February 8, 2018, marking a major milestone in Taiwan's recruitment and retention efforts. Around the same time, 11 secondary laws were enacted or amended to support the act by cutting down restrictions, building a friendlier environment and boosting the number of foreign professionals in Taiwan.
II. Recruitment targets
A. Foreign professionals: A foreign professional may apply for six types of work: 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, a foreign professional may work as a teacher of a specialized field or skill at a short-term cram school class.
B. 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, and is able to substantively contribute to the upgrade and transformation of industry in Taiwan
■ An international award-winning professional whose employment serves the interests of Taiwan
C. Foreign senior professionals: A foreign senior professional must possess high-level expertise of the type needed by Taiwan and in accordance with Article 25, Paragraph 3, Subparagraph 2 of 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
III. Key features of the act
A. Work, visa and residency requirements relaxed
■ Employment Gold Cards for foreign special professionals: A foreign special professional planning to engage in professional work in Taiwan may apply to the National Immigration Agency (NIA) for a four-in-one Employment Gold Card (personal employment pass), which functions as a work permit, resident visa, alien resident certificate and reentry permit. Valid for one to three years and renewable upon expiry, the card confers the holder greater freedom and convenience in seeking employment, working or changing jobs.
■ Personal work permits for foreign freelance artists: A foreign artist may apply directly to the Ministry of Labor for permission to work in Taiwan without going through a specific employer.
■ 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.
■ 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.
■ Permanent residency requirements eased: A foreigner holding an NIA-issued alien permanent resident certificate will no longer be required to remain in Taiwan for at least 183 days per year to maintain permanent resident status.
■ Work permit duration increased: The maximum duration of a work permit for a foreign special professional has been extended from three years to five, while a further extension may be granted upon expiry.
B. Residency rules relaxed for parents, spouses and children
■ Permanent residency eligibility expanded for spouses and children: Where a foreign professional has obtained permanent residency, his/her spouse, minor children, and adult children who are unable to live independently due to mental or physical disability, after having resided in Taiwan lawfully and continuously for five years, may apply for permanent residency without having to provide proof of financial ability.
■ Spouses and children of foreign senior professionals may apply for permanent residency together with the professional: A foreign senior professional's spouse, minor children, and adult children who are unable to live independently due to mental or physical disability, may apply for permanent residency on the same application as the professional.
■ Personal work permits for adult children: Where a foreign professional has obtained permanent residency, his/her adult children who meet requirements for extension of residency may apply for a work permit.
■ Family visit stays extended for lineal ascendants: The length of a family visit for lineal ascendants of a foreign special professional or of his/her spouse has been extended from six months to one year.
C. Retirement, health insurance and tax benefits provided
■ Stronger retirement protection: A foreign national 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, and who is approved for permanent residency, may receive a monthly pension in retirement.
■ National health insurance coverage: Where a foreign national is employed for professional work in Taiwan, his/her spouse and minor children, and adult children who are unable to live independently due to physical or mental disability, having obtained documentary proof of residence, will no longer be required to wait six months for coverage under Taiwan's national health insurance.
■ Tax benefits: A foreign special professional will be exempt from taxation on half of any salary income in excess of NT$3 million (US$102,187) for the first three years of employment in Taiwan.
IV. Establish a single portal for recruitment of foreign professionals
To maximize the effectiveness of the foreign professionals recruitment act, the Ministry of Economic Affairs' online job matching platform Contact Taiwan integrates resources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and other agencies to form a single virtual/physical portal for international talent recruitment. Interested parties may inquire at offices in Taiwan or abroad, or visit the website to obtain the latest information and initiate the application process.
Human resources form the core of a country's competitiveness and the foundation of national and industrial development. The Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals will build a more attractive work and living environment for foreign nationals by relaxing visa, work and residency requirements while providing better health insurance coverage, retirement benefits and tax incentives. Creating such an environment will help transform and upgrade Taiwan's industries and further enhance its global competitiveness.