Tips for Avoiding Visa Runs in Taiwan

By | September 21, 2012

There’s much room for improvement in the world’s processes of acquiring required visas. Why can’t I get a student visa while in Taiwan? And why is it possible to get the visa I need, “visitor visa,” if I were going to work in Taiwan, but not to study. Come on! Students are much less likely to have funds to afford “unnecessary” flights to somewhere you don’t necessarily want to go just to apply for a visa.

Anyhow, while doing my media internship in Tokyo, I applied to study at DanJiang University in Taipei, supposedly the best private university in Taiwan. Time passed, and it was soon time for me to take my flight to Taiwan and I still hadn’t received an email or any reply from the university.

So arrived at the university, and asked, “Hey, can you tell me if I was accepted here?”

I had to give my name and birthday, and they told me that, “yeah, you’ve been accepted, but we couldn’t send you the admission letter because you didn’t include the mail fee to send it.”

“I included everything this school’s website told me to! It didn’t mention a mail fee! Why wasn’t I even emailed about it so I could send it?”

The jolly lady behind the counter shrugged her shoulders, frowned, and offered me a probably genuine, “Sorry.”

At first, I just thought it was a harmless mistake, I could start classes in January and all would be forgiven. But then she informed me that, “you can’t apply for the student visa while in Taiwan, you’ll need to leave, apply, and come back. Sorry!”

At first I felt understandably annoyed, angry, even furious, but I buried those feelings and decided to try to get the visa anyway. I headed to Taiwan’s BOCA, Bureau of Consular Affairs and tried to apply for the visa. I filled out the application and took a number.

I half expected the inevitable failure, but often when people say, “you can’t apply for that visa here,” it usually just means that’s not the legal precedent but it’s still possible. Like when I got my work visa in Japan.

So my number is called and I sit down confidently, “Please give me a visa.”

This old lady tells me that I can’t apply for the visitor visa to study while in Taiwan and that’s just the way it is, though it would be possible if I was going to work in Taiwan. Ridiculous. I calmly explained that I understood but I at least wanted to know “why?”

“It’s just our government’s policy.” Yep, of course, people who understand the reasoning behind these policies wouldn’t work here. Only people who know how to enforce them.

I gave up on understanding and went to waste my hard earned cash on a flight out of here. Though i’ve heard it’s possible to get the visa while staying in Taiwan by sending my passport to a Taiwan consulate outside of Taiwan. But i’m not taking that kind of risk.

So I went to Lion Travel across from Zhongxiao fuxing Station and while discussing my ticket options with the lady there, I noticed a customer getting louder, and angrier across the room. Eventually she seriously went nuts. Yelling about how they changed some detail of her flight and stood in a corner repeatedly screaming, “how the hell can you do this!?” a manager tried to calm her down. Other customers stared in silence. And several employees looked increasingly uncomfortable. However, I Just smiled and enjoyed the show because I realized I wouldn’t see something like that in Japan, where everyone hides their negative emotions like some evil secret nobody must ever know actually exists.