Before coming to Taiwan, I was worried about supporting myself. I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a scholarship, but the monthly stipend could only afford me the essentials. If my laptop broke, or if I needed an emergency flight or if a large expense popped up out of nowhere, I wouldn’t be able to rely on my scholarship to aid me financially.
I needed a part-time job in Taiwan, and I didn’t know if I had the right to work legally whilst being on a student visa. I emphasize “legally” because there are a lot of students that work illegally. It is very common and it made me think that perhaps I have no legal right to work in Taiwan and the criteria to work legally is complicated. I was only half right. As a student, I have the legal right to work in Taiwan, but the process to gain a work permit is confusing the first time you do it. After you’ve done it once, it is a piece of cake later.
However, for scholarship students, the process is a little bit more complicated and the sectors you can work in are limited. I will explain this after how you can apply for a student work permit.
The Application and Documents
The first thing I did was to contact my university’s International Office. The reason was simple; the information currently on the internet and issued by universities and government bodies is a confusing. I am pretty sure I read on one website that you are required to take another foreign physical when applying for a work permit as a student. Many students also gave me conflicting information too and it wasn’t until I contacted the international office, did I realize I had the right to apply, at least.
The ever so helpful Alison in the International Office is always a godsend for these kind of things and she told me that I needed to:
1. Fill out a student work permit application form.
The application process is anything but straight forward, but it should not take you more than 1-2 days to complete if you plan ahead.
2. Photocopy your student ID front and back, along with your ARC and passport. Depending on your university and how they organize their departments, you should probably go to the registration office and ask someone if they can stamp your student ID photocopies. I think this is done to authenticate your student ID. It shouldn’t take more than a second or two.
3. Take your form to your degree’s department. In my case, it was the International Masters in Communications office (IMICS). They will approve your application and this will fill in the stamp needed for approval the department and you will also get the department director’s signature. They will also write a letter for you, explaining the reason why you are applying for a work permit. The reasons fall into threes categories:
- You need to work for financial reasons (Basically you need money and you are going hungry).
- You need a work permit for a required internship related to research or your curriculum.
- You are a graduate student with your university’s permission to do research work related to your curriculum.
Many of my friends who don’t have scholarships were able to use the first reason and the OIC wrote a letter explaining that an “applicant has financial difficulty in study or living cost”. For scholarship students, the process is different, and I will get back to that later.
4. Next, you have to pay the application fee via a post office transfer. The fee is $100 NTD and although some websites state you can pay in the Workforce Development Agency office counter when you are applying, there are other websites which clearly state that payment must be made in full by wire transfer from a post office. I think, if you are applying and your international office sends the application through the post, you are required to pay through a post office. If you are applying for it by yourself (like I did), then you can either pay through a post office or at the counter. Whatever is convenient to you. Personally, I am not keen on letting the international office post my documents. It is something important, so I prefer to do it myself.
The account name is: 勞動部勞動力發展署聘僱許可收費專戶 and the account number is : 19058848.
You will be given a receipt which will contain the branch code, receipt number and date of payment. You need this info for your application form. You also need to attach the receipt to your application.
5. The international office will also write a letter for your application. Or at least give you some stamp when steps 1-4 are complete in order to finish the application off.
6. Once the application is made, you will need to wait 2 weeks until you will be able to collect your permit, or have it mailed back to your international office depending. I was in a sticky situation because I had made the application in person and I had to collect my permit in person too. I never realized I had to collect my permit on the day it was issued and that if I didn’t, I would have to reapply. That was what I was told by the WDA. It a really inconvenient requirement considering the office hours are outside of what a normal working adult with a job and college can manage.
Once you get your work permit, you will be able work legally for most jobs and the only obligation you have, is to renew the permit every March and September, or every semester rather.
However, the application process and the range of jobs you can apply for is different for a scholarship student from the MOE or MOFA. For students like that, they need to do the following.
7. For step 3, you need to apply for reason 2, “You are a graduate student with your university’s permission to do research work related to the curriculum”. I am not sure if this reason can be used for undergrads or postgrads on scholarships for their applications.
8. Unlike students who apply through reason 1 for “financial” reasons, scholarship students are limited in what jobs they can do. Whatever job you want to work in must be related to your research or curriculum. That means, unless you are studying or researching education, you probably won’t be allowed to teach English. At least that is my understanding. My research area and curriculum is focused on communications, and as such a job in journalism, marketing or media would be an acceptable field for me to work in. As a scholarship student, you might be entitled to work part-time, but you are very limited to what you can work as.
As a student with a work permit, you will be allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week during semesters and as many hours as you want during holidays.
Issues with The Process
There are a lot of promotions for studying in Taiwan online, and many tout the fact that students can work in Taiwan and support themselves. This makes Taiwan far more viable than China as a destination for learning Chinese, or for studying at any level of university.
However, the process for gaining a work permit is rudimentary and for many students, working illegally is a better option than the hassle of applying and reapplying every 6 months for the right to work that is already suppose to be given to students in the first place.
There shouldn’t be a need to obtain work permits. The mere fact that an ARC is for a student should be enough for a student to work. The process will not change and although it might seem like a better idea to work illegally, you never know what might happen in the future. Having a work permit might be a little bit of hassle to reapply for every 6 months, but it is always a better option than working illegally. That is my train of thought anyway. But still, the entire process is not necessary considering we are all already students. Applying for work permits is a waste of time, but a necessary waste of time for students to keep on the right side of the law.