by Cat Thomas
The Alien Permanent Resident Certificate (APRC) offers some excellent advantages for entrepreneurs who are considering setting up their own business in Taiwan. Gone are the restrictive minimum salary requirements, required capital and turnover by the second year. You can even hedge your bets by legally working on your start-up as a side project while still enjoying part-time employment elsewhere. The APRC makes shooting for your dreams that bit easier.
If you’ve not yet managed to get your paws on an APRC be sure to check out our sister article on reasons why the APRC might be the best choice for you as an entrepreneur and some myth-busting on common misunderstandings around the application process. If you’ve already got one, or want to know the ins and outs of life once you have it, read on.
In this article, we will cover the key parts of APRC in Taiwan that you should know of:
- Credit and Real Estate
- Other dangers and responsibilities
- Getting the most from your APRC
When one receives their APRC in Taiwan often the posting of the news on social media is met with warm responses of “Congratulations on getting your freedom card!” But what are the freedoms that the APRC grants holders? Are you making the most of your APRC? And are you aware of how you could lose it.
Straight off the bat you no longer need to undergo the periodic renewal of your visa and all the accompanying faff. Your APRC will only need to be updated (free of charge) if you move house, or if your passport number or name changes.
Another highly appreciated benefit is the accompanying Employment Services Act Article 51 Work Permit; commonly referred to as the Open Work Permit. This card which is applied for separately from your APRC — by the APRC holder not the employer — through the local Labour Affairs Office permits the holder to undertake work in any field in Taiwan just the same as a Taiwanese person.
It’s also possible for you to accept work without a restriction on your lower earnings limit. Similarly, you can choose to work a variety of different jobs without being restricted by the permitted employment categories applied to regular ARC applicants. For entrepreneurs, this can mean the chance to gain some extra experience in a field that wasn’t open to them previously or to start experimenting with their start-up on the side. Whether you want to go for it full-time or moonlight while you find your feet it is now legal for you to do so.
As APRC holder Holly Harrington, the General Manager of Taipei Startup Stadium puts it:
I like being able to try many different things professionally without fear that I’m inadvertently breaking some kind of labor law. After I got my APRC, but before my role at Taiwan Startup Stadium, I did a lot of fun freelance projects like writing for television, serving as a tour guide in historic Dadaocheng, selling my own artwork at creative markets, and doing marketing and translation for various startups and local businesses. Those professional experiences led me to where I am now, and I wouldn’t have been able to do them legally without my APRC.
Of course, with all freedom comes responsibility.
If you are not employed by anyone (not even your own company), you will need to arrange to pay your own National Health Insurance premiums. The current rate is NT$749 per month. For instructions on how to enrol (plus tips and tax break information) see our article about Health Insurance and Labor Insurance for Entrepreneurs.
If you are considering having a child in Taiwan and neither parent holds Taiwanese citizenship then your new-born will not be covered on your Health Insurance under current regulations. They will only become eligible after 6 months. Revisions to this regulation specifically aimed at APRC holders are scheduled to be discussed in the Legislative Yuan when it restarts in the autumn. In the meantime, if you are in/anticipating this situation it is advised to seek out private insurance to cover unexpected medical costs.
Another disadvantage for entrepreneurs, freelancers or self-employed people without a company and not enrolled in a Labour Union is that under the current regulations there is no way for individuals to enrol in the government Labour Insurance (Lao Bao) scheme. Labour Insurance provides a payout in case of death and benefits for maternity leave, sickness or injury or disability and survivors. *
One solution to not being able to access this scheme is to take out personal insurance. This kind of insurance is easily available in Taiwan and can cover you for accidental death and periods of sickness for as little as NT$3,000 per year.
The other solution is to join a local Labour Union.
At present APRC holders – including those in salaried positions – are not eligible for the government pension scheme. Again, revisions are in the pipeline and will be discussed in the autumn session of the Legislative Yuan.
Credit and Real Estate
For simple forms of credit, for example credit cards and post-pay phone plans without a local guarantor, an APRC should improve your chances. There is no legal requirement for a Taiwanese co-signer for a phone number or credit card and so if you do meet resistance a bit of polite tenacity or asking for a branch to check with head office can go a long way. For a credit card of course, you’ll be expected to show a regular income. Be prepared to be persistent though. As Etienne Maré, co-owner of catering company North & South Food Services in Zhubei, Hsinchu says:
It took 8 weeks of going in to the bank each Monday and Friday to chase up my application. The application got rejected by the Credit Card department 3 times. Eventually I threatened to switch my bank, and get my then-employer to switch too. They eventually conceded and gave me a regular credit card.
If you are wondering if an APRC gives you any advantage in terms of purchasing land and property then the answer is a little mixed. The right to purchase land and real estate is covered by reciprocity and is not affected by your visa status. So, if your country (or state for citizens of the USA) allows Taiwanese to purchase land there then you, subject to the usual regulations, may purchase land or real estate in Taiwan. Before you start dreaming of building your own farmhouse in the lush mountains of Taidong though do note that while areas which are termed residential are fine, some other areas may be off limits. The regulations and list of fully and partially reciprocal countries can be found here.
In practical terms though if you are looking to get a mortgage or other kind of loan to help you purchase property having an APRC can most certainly help. While you may have to shop around to find a bank that will extend you credit as a ‘foreigner’, having an APRC significantly ups the likelihood of such a loan even being considered. Of course having records of a high, steady income being paid into a local bank will be a deciding factor. Jacek Kaczemarek, Head of the Foreign Language department at a local high school secured a loan with no local guarantor:
The process was relatively easy as long as you have a good understanding of Chinese, because all of the documents are in Chinese. To purchase an apartment, you will need to find a bank that is willing to give you a mortgage. The down payment was 30% of the property value. I went to four banks and three of them agreed to give me a mortgage. Then I chose the bank that offered the best interest rates.
The minimum deposit you’ll be expected to have is 30%, and quite possibly up to 70%. Some banks may still ask for a local guarantor, but this is also common practice for Taiwanese applicants. Again, the government is looking to improve the credit environment and will be discussing it this autumn.
It could be said that Permanent Residency is something of a misnomer as there are ways that you can lose your APRC. The easiest way to do this would be slip up in terms of actual time spent in Taiwan.
The government has strict regulations regarding the amount of time APRC holders must spend in Taiwan each calendar year (Jan 1st – Dec 31st). According to Article 33 of the Immigration act an APRC will be revoked if the holder:
Has not resided for one hundred and eighty-three (183) days for each year during his/her permanent residence in the State. The person shall be exempted if he/she has the approval of National Immigration Agency to study abroad, seek medical treatment, or for other special reasons.
So in practical terms this means that APRC holders planning to be absent for more than 183 days in a calendar year may apply online for leave for up to two years (https://tinyurl.com/leaveofabsenceform ). Note that you must apply before you reach the 183 days of absence point. The form does ask for an explanation but usual reasons such as study or family circumstances usually suffice.
Revisions to up this grace period to five years are scheduled for discussion in the Legislative Yuan sometime after they recommence after the summer break in autumn 2017.
It is common to hear people who hold a Joining Family Resident Visa (JRFV) say that they are disinclined to apply for an APRC as the JRFV already grants them many of the same freedoms and avoids the aforementioned time restrictions. However, there are advantages to making the switch. We will be discussing the benefits and drawbacks of the JRFV in a follow up article.
Other dangers and responsibilities
The government also retains the right to revoke an APRC under the any one of the following circumstances (Immigration Act, article 33):
National Immigration Agency shall revoke or repeal a person’s permanent residence permit and cancel his/her Alien Permanent Resident Certificate if the person meets one of the following circumstances:
- Has submitted false or untruthful information for his/her application.
- Has used illegally acquired, counterfeited or altered documents.
- Has been sentenced to punishments of imprisonment for one (1) year or greater by a judicial authority, whereas a person who commits a crime due to his/her negligence is exempted.
- Has not resided for one hundred and eighty-three (183) days for each year during his/her permanent residence in the State. The person shall be exempted if he/she has the approval of National Immigration Agency to study abroad, seek medical treatment, or for other special reasons.
- Has restored the nationality of the State.
- Has acquired the nationality of the State.
- Has had the nationality of the State concurrently.
- Has been deported from the State.
Assuming then that you have been honest in the application process, have no conflict with nationality and stick to the residency requirements the relevant points are 2,3 and 8. In layman’s terms: don’t mess around with fake IDs, tamper with your ID, or get entangled with other forms of fraud and stay on the right side of the law.
Note that while a crime such as Vehicular Manslaughter would be categorised as a crime due to negligence and therefore not count, a conviction for another criminal offence where the sentence is a year or more would result in your APRC being revoked. For example, a conviction for fraud or bribery could carry a sentence of a year or more. Investment disputes where a charge of fraud is brought forward are easier to prove in Taiwan than for example, the US or parts of Europe and can often result in a sentence of a year of more. A recent case in Kaohsiung involving trying to bribe an environmental official also resulted in a two-year sentence.
A DUI will usually result in a fine under traffic laws and prosecutions as a criminal offence are relatively rare; in cases where no one has been injured, killed and there was no hit and run the sentence handed down is usually around the 2-3 month mark. However, a DUI can theoretically lead to a sentence of up to 2 years or longer if you injure or kill someone.
Holders of APRCs and ARCs have the right to have a deportation order decision reviewed, with some notable exceptions (Immigration Act Article 36, point 9). Grounds for immediate deportation include “having been found guilty of endangering national interest, public safety, and public order or engaging in terrorist activities…” and as mentioned above being deported after you’ve served time.
It’s also worth noting that (just like ARC holders) technically those over 14 years old should carry your APRC or passport with you at all times within Taiwan. (Regulations Governing Visiting, Residency, and Permanent Residency; article 16/ Immigration Act article 28).
Getting the most from your APRC
The APRC is particularly handy for entrepreneurs and currently offers a host of benefits and, as mentioned, several areas which might be seen as lacking are up for discussion in the autumn session of the Legislative Yuan. Should any changes be approved we will run an article outlining them at the time.
In the meantime, there are many entrepreneurial APRC holders already taking full advantage of the freedoms that an APRC gives you.
While we’ve outlined some of the legalities surrounding the APRC in this article should you meet any difficulties it’s always best to seek advice from the relevant authority or to consult a lawyer.
*Old-age benefit is also available for those enrolled for 15 years or longer in the Labour Insurance scheme. This is separate from the Labour Pension Scheme which non-nationals are currently not eligible for.
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