The Ultimate Guide to the Job Seeker Visa / ARC Extension in Taiwan
Updated: Jan 5, 2022
This article first appeared on Kaya The Writer and is re-posted here with the author’s consent.
You might be terrified to quit. I was terrified.
"How will I stay in the country? Will there be any good teaching jobs available when I need money?"... these were common questions zipping around my thinker as I debated quitting my third teaching job in Taipei.
Luckily, whether you are moving from another ARC visa, quitting your job, completing your contract, or even if you got fired from any job with a work permit (not just teachers) you are eligible for the Job Seeker Visa or ARC Extension...
... for 12 months. One whole year.
Disclaimer: I am using the terms ARC extension and Job Seeker visa interchangeably in this article, so don't be confused - they mean the same thing.
As a Taipei resident, it's easiest for me to offer insight into the Taipei-specific offices in parts of this post. This general advice can still be used in other areas of Taiwan, so take the information that's relevant for you in your particular city.
Leaving Your Job
Getting Your ARC Extension
Staying Insured Under NHI
Leaving Your Job
Depending on your situation, you might be looking to get out of your job fast. I've been there. I feel you.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of sketchy buxiban contracts out there that may be giving you anxiety about quitting. Most of them are baseless and do not fall under legal grounds for fining or penalizing you - so don't worry.
But (and there's always a "but") I have been in a situation where the company did have legal grounds for fining me if I quit early. So I'm going to share this specific story, in case it hits home for you.
The standard contract under the Labour Board (Article 16) states:
Where a worker has continuously worked for more than three months but less than one year, the notice shall be given 10 days in advance.
Where a worker has continuously worked for more than one year but less than three years, the notice shall be given 20 days in advance.
Where a worker has continuously worked for more than three years, the notice shall be given 30 days in advance.
If you need more details about the legality of your contract, check out this page.
In my case, I didn't have a full-time contract according to the Labour Board - I was an "Independent Contractor" and I signed my life away to 3 classes for the whole year.
This type of contract did not protect me under the Labour Board's legislation, so the fines in the contract were viable - they actually took someone to court before for 20,000 NTD.
A few points to clarify, since you may be thinking "ehhhhh? this sounds sketchy":
This buxiban provides teachers with an ARC even if they only teach a few hours a week (slightly sketchy, yes)
The "Independent Contractor" agreement lets them skirt around the problematic aspect of providing employees with less than 14 hours per week
The contract you sign is a commitment for a certain amount of hours, and if you quit before you finish your hours you can be penalized
If you sign the contract, it's all above board
And, even if you go to the government about their sketchy practices, you are also bending the rules by taking an ARC for so few hours (basically, I was in a bind)
Moral of the story: try to avoid situations like this. I made the mistake for you. Don't be like me. In case you're already in a bind like this, don't fret. There's a way out. Tears. Lots of them.
I joke, but actually, tears will really help your case. I pleaded with the hiring manager to let me go due to "personal reasons", and with the condition that I help her find a new teacher to replace me, I avoided the fine.
Offer to help your school find a replacement. Being compassionate can do wonders.
The handover took about a month, but someone took my place and I was able to quit teaching altogether which freed up time for my freelance writing.
Getting Your ARC Extension
The first thing you need to do is get your Contract Termination Letter. It looks a little something like this, usually with the company's official stamp in red:
You need to take this to the Immigration office within 15 days of signing in order to avoid penalties. Along with a few other things:
A copy of your employment contract
Your current ARC
Your passport + 1 photocopy (copy machines downstairs at Immigration)
2” x 2” photo (photo booths downstairs at Immigration)
One application form found at the Immigration Agency (or here: PDF)
When you get to Immigration, with your mask on, take a number from the machine and sit in the waiting area. I recommend going on a weekday morning to avoid the occasionally long-ass wait times.
When filling out your application form, this is the type of request you're making:
As you can see, there are many things you can do with this lil form - so keep it around for when you move house, if you get a new work permit, or need to replace your ARC.
Once you submit all your documents and pay the 1000 NTD fee, the agent will give you this form, with a date to pick up your new 6 month ARC:
You get the Job Seeker ARC for 6 months at a time. Once 6 months is up, you have to go back to immigration to do it all over again.
Once you're 30 days from expiration on your ARC, you'll get a polite letter in the mail telling you to go renew or you'll be fined thousands of NTD.
When you are going to pick up your new ARC in the Taipei Immigration Office, just go to the information desk on the lefthand side with your old ARC and the form you were given last time - no need to get a number and wait around (I made that mistake before when I was a newbie).
Staying Covered Under NHI
One of the first fears I had about quitting was losing my health insurance. I'm sure for a lot of people, going without coverage can be stressful. Especially if you've recently left your job. Luckily, with the Job Seeker's ARC you are still eligible for NHI. But you need to pay for it yourself every month. It is compulsory.
Here's how you get insured
First, take a deep breath, because I've simplified this process so you don't have to suffer through the absolutely horrendous, impossible-to-navigate NHI website. You need to check your eligibility, which will be based on your particular situation (married, single, part of the farmer's association, who knows?). Here is a brief outline of the conditions of a person who has had their NHI coverage interrupted. If you're reading this article, it's likely you fall under number 3 or 4.
Next, get your ducks in a row. You will need to gather some documents:
Your NHI card (if you don't have one yet, here is how to get one)
Your ARC (proof of habitation)
An application form
A passport-sized photo
You can go into your local NHI office with these items and apply for your new insurance plan. Check out this lovely, well-organized list from the NHI website.
For Taipei 人 - do not go to the headquarters, I made this mistake the first time.
At the Zhongzheng District Office
Enter the first floor and speak to people at the information desk on the right
They'll direct you to the fifth floor, where you'll take a number
Wait for an agent, give them your information and discuss payment options
If you have any backlogged amounts owing, they'll ask you to pay in cash
When you are applying for your new insurance, you should ask the staff about setting up the app on your phone. You can do a lot on the app, like order masks, check your bills, and more. Unfortunately, it's mostly in Chinese. This is how it looks:
Paying for your insurance
The price per month varies depending on which district you live in. When you were employed, they calculated based on your income. There are a number of ways to pay for your insurance every month - I opted for the simplest one. I receive a bill in the mail and pay at 7/11. Easy-peasy. If you have some mailbox issues or want to make the process all online, here are a few other ways to pay (click to enlarge):
I recommend asking the staff to help you set up your preferred payment option when you go in to apply for your new insurance. There is supposedly a way to do this all online, but after hours of scouring the web, and the insufferable NHI website, I couldn't find out how to do it. If you are reading this and successfully applied for new insurance 100% online, I want to hear from you. Please drop me a line so I can update this article with the correct steps to get it done.
If you have already been to the doctor without coverage and you need a reimbursement, you can do so once your new insurance is paid for and updated. Check this site for more detailed rules & regulations.
Am I eligible for the ARC Extension (Job Seeker Visa)?
If you have been employed with a valid working permit in Taiwan, you are eligible for the ARC Extension. Check this page for more details.
Can I work with the Job Seeker Visa?
Technically, no. You need to get a valid work permit if you get a new job.
Can I get the ARC Extension more than once?
YES. Once you obtain another work permit, then leave that job, you are eligible for another year of Job Seeker status! It's UNLIMITED - get it as many times as you want until you are eligible for your APRC.
Can I get the ARC Extension if I'm on a Working Holiday Visa?
NO. The Working Holiday Visa is in a different category (an open work permit, for one year only and one time only), and the government requires that you transfer to a single, valid working permit before being eligible for an ARC Extension.
If you finish your working holiday visa, you have to leave the country and go to the Taipei representative office in your home country to get a reentry permit.
That being said, I have heard stories about people pestering immigration and eventually getting a "yes" for them to switch over to ARC, without leaving the country. It depends who you get at the office.
Can I get the ARC Extension if I'm on the Visitor Visa (COVID refugee) Extensions?
NO. You need to get a valid work permit and an ARC before you will be eligible for the ARC Extension.
Can I get the ARC Extension if I am transferring from the Entrepreneur Visa or Gold Card?
Does the ARC Extension count towards my APRC?
YES. You are eligible for your APRC after 5 consecutive years of living and working in Taiwan. And, for some reason, your Job Seeker's ARC counts towards this achievement. Yay!
If I entered the country on a spousal visa and get divorced, am I eligible for the ARC Extension?
Good news! You don't need to apply for the extension - one you have your APRC you can keep it even f you get divorced.
Do I got this?
Yeah. You got this.
Extra Information / Resources
If you plan to call immigration, be warned, it's difficult to get someone on the phone who speaks English. In any case, here are all the phone numbers of different offices.
Here is the FAQ on the Immigration website.
If you want a bit of light reading, to get learned on all things NHI, check out this incredibly long PDF.
And even more fun reading about eligibility and applying for NHI based on different circumstances.
Here is a wealth of articles on visa stuff by All Hands Taiwan.
Good luck! And drop a comment below if you have any extra questions, comments or feedback about this guide. This piece will be updated whenever necessary with new information.
Kaya Maniko is a professional freelance conversion copywriter based in Taipei. You can find more of her work at https://www.kayathewriter.com.