There are a lot of great things about Taiwan. But this isn’t gonna’ be about those. This is about how annoying Taiwan’s Bureaucracy is.
You have to understand that the concept of “majority rules” goes haywire here. Nails that stick out are hammered down or, as the Taiwanese put it, the fattest pig is the first to get his throat cut. In other words, if you deviate from what is seen as The Norm, be prepared to have to deal with a lot of bullshit.
One great example is a friend of mine who, at the bank, wrote the wrong date on his deposit slip – he thought it was the 7th when it was actually the 8th, as a kindly teller pointed out, upon looking at his slip. No big deal, right? Just draw a line and turn the 7 into an 8. Wrong. The not-so-kindly teller made him re-do the entire deposit slip. Why? Because, “Fuck you,” that’s why.
There really are countless examples. I had an employer once tell me that I needed to be more like an ordinary employee, because my deviations from the norm (on the side of greater productivity) were effecting the staff, as a whole. In other words, coworkers were pissed off because I didn’t work as slow as they did, and it effected morale. Instead of telling them to get over it and step their game up, the solution was to deal with me.
In the end, there are a few maxims, here in Taiwan. First, CYA all-the-way. Everyone is obsessed with covering their asses so that nothing can blow back on them. Secondly, anything abnormal that results in any different situation than what is normally seen becomes an undoable thing. Whether it’s a special order at a restaurant or a special request from an office, they will simply tell you, “We can’t do that,” instead of take the time to see how they can, in fact, do it. Third, just don’t get caught. You can lie your ass off…as long as your lie is good enough to be plausible.
Three-hundred words in, we get to my point: getting a visa extended. Instead of explain all the nonsensical red tape – much of which is hard to understand, even for the Taiwanese – I’ll just tell you what you need to do to get your visa extended.
First, check your visa. It should say “Visitor,” “XX Days,” and no note about “No Extensions.” If your visa says “No Extensions,” then just stop reading now. Doesn’t say that? OK, moving on.
You’ll have to go to a Foreign Affairs Office to get yourself extended. The application is pretty straight-forward – you’ll want the “Multiple-Purpose Application Form For Foreigners.” After you fill out the first half of the document, you’ll come to a section asking why you want to stay longer in Taiwan. Skip everything and just check “Other.” When asked, say you want to explore more of Taiwan, take more pictures, and try more local food.
It’s a good idea to overload them with pointless documentation, as well. Bring a print-out of your upcoming departure ticket. Bring a print-out of your bank statement. Bring a letter stating exactly what that last sentence in the previous paragraph stated. If you have some kind of rental agreement, bring that, as well. Bring it all, just in case you get an overzealous government employee who feels like fucking with you.
Chances are, if you follow my instructions – particularly regarding checking any other boxes or saying you want to stay in Taiwan for any reason other than tourism – no one will bat an eye. I’ve gone in and told them I missed a flight, and the only flight they could set me up with is six weeks later, due to their policies, and it was fine, despite being an absolute lie. I’ve gone in and told them my friend was pregnant and about to have a child and have been made to jump through hoop after hoop, despite being absolutely true. Dealing with the government of the ROC is like biting into a random bonbon – it could be filled with chocolatey nougat or it might be filled with dog shit.
So make it as simple as possible and reliant only on your word being a visitor in Taiwan. Don’t bring up other people you’re visiting. Don’t bring up anything that could possibly be seen/misconstrued as working. Don’t mention a thing other than, “I want to do more tourism,” and back it up with a set departure date, a bank statement, and anything else related to your tourism agenda (even if you don’t have one). No matter what, make what you say as benign, normal, and plausible as possible, and you should have no issues. If you try to do it more than once-per-stamp, you will catch flack for it, because (and this is directly from a government employee) “there is no reason to be a tourist in Taiwan for more than three or four months.”
Deviate from that in any way and you will get stuck eating miles of ridiculous red tape that is sure to leave a nasty taste in your mouth.
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