Taiwan passes law to recruit and employ foreign professionals

  • Date: 2017-11-10

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. Amid this intensely competitive environment, however, Taiwan has been unable 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 government drafted the Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals after a thorough examination of the difficulties and barriers encountered by foreign professionals seeking to work and live in Taiwan. This special law was passed by the Legislature on its third and final reading on October 31, 2017, marking a major milestone in Taiwan’s recruitment and retention efforts.

II. Recruitment targets
A. Foreign professionals: A foreign professional 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, 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. The standards for defining such requirements and expertise will be established by government agencies according to the nature and needs of each industry. Examples of a foreign special professional 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. Foreign senior professionals: A foreign senior professional must possess high-level expertise of the type needed by Taiwan. According to Article 25, Paragraph 3, Subparagraph 2 of the Immigration Act, a foreign senior professional applying for work in Taiwan should have distinctive talent in scientific and technological R&D or managerial work at a special technology center or scientific and technological institute; possess 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; or have been conferred top awards or honors at prestigious international competitions.

III. Restrictions eased by the act
A. Work, visa and residency requirements relaxed
1. Foreign professionals
(1) Foreign artists may work in Taiwan as freelancers: A foreign artist may apply directly to the Ministry of Labor (MOL) for permission to work in Taiwan without going through a specific employer.
(2) Cram schools may hire foreign teachers possessing specialized knowledge or skills: Cram school employers may seek permission from the MOL to hire foreign teachers with specialized knowledge or skills for short-term courses in subjects other than language.
(3) Taiwan to issue job-seeking visas: 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.
(4) Permanent residency requirements eased: A foreigner holding a National Immigration Agency (NIA) issued alien permanent resident certificate will no longer be required to remain in Taiwan for at least 183 days per year to maintain that status.
(5) Responsibility for issuance of teacher work permits to move back to the Ministry of Education: School will be encouraged to expand recruitment of foreign teachers.

2. Foreign special professionals
(1) Employment Gold Cards to be issued: A foreign special professional planning to engage in professional work in Taiwan may apply to the 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.
(2) Work permit duration increased: The duration of a work permit for a foreign special professional has been extended from the current maximum of three years to five, while a further extension may be granted upon expiry.

B. Residency rules relaxed for parents, spouses and children
1. 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.

2. Spouses and children of foreign senior professionals may apply for permanent residency together with the professional: Consistent with proposed amendments to Article 25 of the Immigration Act, 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.

3. 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 in accordance with Article 51 of the Employment Service Act.

4. Family visit stays extended for lineal ascendants: The maximum length of a family visit stay for lineal ascendants of a foreign special professional or of his/her spouse has been extended from six months to one year per visit.

C. Retirement, health insurance and tax benefits provided
1. Stronger retirement protection
(1) A foreign national employed in professional work and approved for permanent residency may be covered under Taiwan’s new labor pension system.
(2) A foreign national approved for permanent residency, and who is employed as a full-time, qualified, paid teacher within the headcount budget of a public school in Taiwan, will have his/her retirement governed by the retirement regulations for public school teachers. The retiree may opt for either a lump sum pension payment or a monthly pension.

2. 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.

3. Tax benefits: A foreign special professional will be exempt from taxation on half of any salary income in excess of NT$3 million (US$99,430) for the first three years of employment, provided that it is the first time he/she has been approved for work in Taiwan.

IV. Conclusion
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 foreigners by relaxing visa, work and residency requirements while providing better health insurance coverage, tax treatment and retirement benefits. Creating such an environment will help transform and upgrade Taiwan’s industries while enhancing its international competitiveness.