Taiwan Marriage for Foreigners
The purpose of this lens is to help international couples in Taiwan navigate the process of achieving resident status for the non-Taiwanese spouse.
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My wife and I met while we were attending college in the United States and married just before my graduation. Not too long after our marriage, we moved to Taiwan. At the time, we were not planning living in Taiwan for more than a year and I wouldn’t be able to work legally in Taiwan solely on the basis of residency based upon our marriage. Therefore, instead of pursuing Taiwanese residency through our marriage, I obtained my Alien Residence Certificate (ARC) and work permit through the school where I was hired to teach English.
After about a year in Taiwan, we moved back to the United States to obtain advanced degrees. We finished graduate school and pursued our careers in the United States. My wife became a United States citizen, and now has dual citizenship. We recently decided to have our first child and once we received the good news, we quit our jobs and moved to Taiwan to enjoy the lower cost of living, which allows us both to not work for an extended period of time.
Because we decided not to work, at least not full time, obtaining an ARC through employment was not an option. Similarly, I did not want to attend school full-time for the same reason I did not want to work full time, so I wasn’t going to get an ARC through a school. Leaving the country every month or so on a “visa run” wasn’t practical for our situation. Moreover, if I decided to work part-time, I wanted to do so legally.
Thankfully, Taiwan changed its immigration laws a number of years ago allowing resident foreigners married to Taiwanese citizens to work legally in Taiwan. Permission to work legally in Taiwan was automatically granted upon receipt of the ARC; there is not a separate application process for a work permit.
Unfortunately, although the Taiwan government has been increasing the quantity and quality of English materials on-line and in print, figuring out the process for obtaining resident status was more confusing than I thought it should be. The purpose of this lens to help step you through the process and to collect in one place the on-line resources you will need or find helpful.
I hope that you find this site useful and I wish you happiness and success in your endeavors.
Overview of the Process - The Basic Steps of Acquiring Resident Status Through Marriage in Taiwan
The steps do not necessarily have to be done in this exact order. The sections below will discuss where one step is a prerequisite for another.
- Deciding where to get married.
- Tieing the knot, getting your marriage certificate, and getting it authenticated.
- Getting your Certificate of no Criminal Record (a/k/a Certificate of Good Conduct)
- Getting your Health Certificate and having it authenticated
- Getting your name added to your Taiwanese spouse's Household Registration
- Getting your Joining Family Resident Visa
- Getting your Alien Resident Certificate (ARC)
- Renewing your ARC
Steps 1 & 2: Marriage
Deciding where to get married, getting married, and making it all official
To avoid some of the relatively minor headaches that my wife and I experienced, it is best if you familiarize yourself with the regulations governing foreign residents before you get married and carefully coordinate your wedding and the subsequent steps you'll need to take if you want to legally live and work in Taiwan. For example, when my wife and I married, we did not register our marriage in Taiwan and therefore had to pay a modest fine when, nearly a decade after the fact, my wife added me to her household registration (see the section on household registration, below). Also, many of the documents you must acquire, such as the health certificate and certificate of no criminal record, are only accepted within a certain time period after they were issued. If you don't time things right, you might incur addition cost and inconvenience retracing your steps.
If you are married in Taiwan, you will still need to register your marriage in your home country and provide proof of this for household registration purposes. Contact the embasy, counsulate, or other representative office of your country in Taiwan about how to do this.
If you are married in your home country, be sure to obtain several certified copies of your marriage certificate. You will also need to translate it into Chinese and have it authenticated by Taiwanese Representative with jurisdiction over the locale where you registered your marriage. See section four on Household Registration, below, for more information.
NOTE: The Taiwanese spouse should proof-read a non-Chinese marriage certificate carefully to make sure that the spelling of the transliterated name on the marriage certificate matches that on the Taiwanese passport EXACTLY. If you are starting this process long after your marriage and find a discrepancy, you will mostly likely (in the USA) need to file for an amendment to your marriage certificate. In New York City, this cost $40. You can get the form and instructions from the NYC Marriage Bureau Website.
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Step 3. Certificate of No Criminal Record
Learn from me, start this step as early as possible!
To apply for a resident visa, Taiwan requires that the foreign spouse submit documentation proving a clean criminal record. A variety of terms is used to refer to this documentation in official instructions. You will also find foreigners who have gone through the process using a variety of terms for this documentation. This may be due in part to differences in translation, but mostly due to the fact that the terms used for such documentation and the agencies and procedures vary from country to country. In the United States the terms, agencies, and procedures vary from state to state.
Some of the more common terms I've come across: "certificate of clean criminal record", "certificate of good conduct", "certificate of clean hands record", "police clearance certificate", and "clean criminal record documentation."
When I first read the instruction on the visa application asking for this documentation, I checked out several discussion boards and Web sites to see how other Americans have gone about acquiring these records. A common procedure that I read about was to contact the "Department of Criminal Investigation" or its counterpart in the American spouse's state capital.
I was a resident of New York at the time and I called the New York City information line (311) and was told that I could get a "Personal Criminal History Record Review" from the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) in Albany. I called the DCJS and they mailed the application packet to me, which I received in just under a week. The application packet included a fingerprinting card, which I was instructed to bring to my local police station to have my fingerprints taken. So far, this all seemed to be in line with what I've read about the process from other Americans who have gone through the process.
I went to my neighborhood police precinct the next afternoon, but was informed that they only offer fingerprinting services between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and noon. When I returned the next morning, I was asked why I was requesting my criminal record and after I explained it was for foreign visa purposes, I was told that a Personal Criminal History Record Review from the DCJS could not be used for that purpose and that what I needed was a "Certificate of Good Conduct," which I had to get from the Public Inquiry & Request Section at New York City Police Department Headquarters in Manhattan.
Step 3. Certificate of No Criminal Record, Continued
Apply early and have the certificate authenticated.
I visited the NYPD website for more information and called NYPD HQ to find out the hours and verify the fee ($30 a/o July 2006) and required documents. As I was a resident of NYC, I had to apply in person. Non-residents may apply by mail. It took a while to pass through the security checks at police headquarters and the Public Inquiries and Request Section office was crammed full of people. I assume that you would want to set aside a couple hours at similar agencies in most large cities if you can not order this record by mail.
I had to wait ten days from the time I applied and was finger printed until I could pick up the Certificate of Good Conduct. The delay caused by initially requesting forms from the wrong agency and the further wait after applying to the appropriate agency caused me to postpone my move date. Luckily, I planned to visit with my parents before flying to Taiwan, so I didn't have to change my flight, but I did have to cut my visit with my parents short.
In hindsight, I should have applied for the Certificate of Good Conduct a couple months in advance. I recommend starting this process as soon as you know that you are getting married and applying for residency, but not too early. The Certificate of Good Conduct has to have been issued no more than three months prior to the time you apply for your visa.
If you are a New York City resident, or are just curious, the Web site containing the information you need to obtain a Certificate of Good Conduct is: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/ssb/public.html
Once you have your Certificate of Good Conduct, you have to have it authenticated at the ROC Representative Office nearest your home. In the United States this office is known as the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Organization. There is a $15 fee and the application form is available at any TECO office or you can download it from the official Website: http://www.tecro.org/content.php?section=visas
Note, I've read other sources that have stated that you must also provide a Chinese translation of the Certificate of Good Conduct. I did not provide a translation and the TECO office in New York authenticated the document and accepted it with my visa application, with no objections.
Step 4. Health Certificate
Obtaining a health certificate is relatively straight-forward and as long as you don't have a communicable diseases, you shouldn't have a problem.
You can have the examination for the health certificate performed in a either a designated hospital in Taiwan or a licensed hospital or clinic in you home country.
Since I was in the United States, I simply went to my personal care physician who arranged for the appropriate tests and completed the form.
The form is in both Chinese and English, so there is no need to translate it. But if the form was completed by a foreign hospital or clinic, it must be authenticated by the ROC Embassy, Consulate or Mission, which has jurisdiction over the place where the documents are issued.
My physician did not sign the form before a public notary, so the TECO in New York would not accept it. Because requiring the doctor to sign before a notary public is an inconvenience in the United States, however, TECO will accept a health certificate that has not been notarized if it is sealed in the clinic's envelope with the doctor's signature across the seal. So I simply brought the form back to my doctor who put it in his office's pre-printed envelope and signed the seal.
The certificate is good for three months.
You can download an English/Chinese Health Certificate form here: http://www.tecochicago.org/visa/health.pdf
Step 5. Household Registration
Getting yourself added to your Taiwanese spouse's household registration.
In Taiwan household registration records serve a purpose similar to birth, marriage, and death certificates in the United States. They contain entries regarding, and are considered prima facie evidence of: birth, death, marriage, and divorce.
To add you to his Household Registration, your Taiwanese spouse will need to bring the following items to the local Household Registration Office:
- A copy of his Household Registration
- His chop (a unique stamp used as signatures in Taiwan)
- His ROC ID card
- A copy of your marriage certificate, translated into Chinese, and authenticated by the ROC Representative Office nearest your home.
- A few hundred NT dollars for the fees. The fees are relatively inexpensive. A schedule of fees is available here: http://english.taipei.gov.tw/dahr/index.jsp?recordid=5536
In our case, we no longer had the original copy of our marriage certificate, only photocopies. So I ordered several certified copies from the Vital Records office of the county in which we were married.
Also, since the state that we were married in is not in the TECO New York branch's jurisdication, we had to have another regional branch authenticate the document. We express mailed to the appropriate TECO branch the certified marriage certificate, along with a Chinese translation; a completed application for document authentication; the application fee ($15); and a self-addressed, postage-paid Fed Ex envelop for them to return the authenticated document back to us.
Note: my wife translated the marriage certificate into Chinese herself, which was recommended and accepted by the authenticating TECO branch. I've read about other couples paying translation services, but my wife translated all documents herself, which saved us time and money.
I had my wife obtain several stamped copies of the updated Household Registration. My wife was already in Taiwan during this time, so she kept a few copies and express mailed a few copies of the to me in New York.
She didn't mail the authenticated and translated copy of our marriage certificate back, which I thought was required for the visa application, so I had her express mail it back to me. It turns out the the Household Registration is all that is required. TECO NY had no interest in seeing my marriage certificate and immediately returned it when I submitted my visa ap
Step 6. Alien Resident Certificate
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Under the "Remarks" section of my resident visa is the instruction: "APPLY FOR ARC AT POLICE BUREAU WITHIN 15 DAYS."
So a couple days after arriving in Taiwan, my wife and I went to the Foreign Affairs office at the local police bureau. I brought copies of all documentation, just in case.
Basically, we had to fill out an application, pay a fee in the amount of $1,000 NT (about $30 USD), provide a 2"x2" photo, show my passport, and my wife's household registration.
I was able to pick up my Alien Resident Certificate (which as a side note is green, unlike the United State's "green card").
Now I can work legally in Taiwan and can leave and re-enter the country at will. This first ARC will expire in a year, but I can reapply for a three-year ARC at that time.
Step 7. Renewing your ARC
Wow! It's been a year since I created this lens. Anyway, I just renewed my ARC. Simple process. You'll need your passport w/ visa, photos, and a CURRENT copy of your household registration (don't use one from a year ago if you had extra copies). You just have to fill out some forms. It was simple and quick. Now I don't have to worry about visas for three years. Nice!
Necessary and Helpful Links
The following is a list of links to website you will need or will want to visit as you proceed through the resident visa and Alien Resident Certificate application process. Some of the sites you will need to visit, other are site I feel are particularly useful. You should visit these sites as soon as possible in the process; preferably before you marry.
- Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This is a direct link to the resident visa application information on the English website for the R.O.C. Bureau of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The English Materials are not well written, but it is an official source and you should
- National Police Agency, Ministry of the Interior - Information for Foreigners
This website contains well-presented information in English on a variety of topics of interest to alien residents and visitors. I found its information on resident visa regulations and application procedures much more helpful than that provided on th
- National Network of Foreign Spouses
This is a very detailed site and a provides an interesting read for those interested in the development of Taiwan's regulation of foreign spouses and the fight to provide foreign spouses with the right to work in Taiwan. Unfortunately, it seems that
- TaiwanStuff.com - Information on Getting Married to a Taiwanese
This is another U.S. citizen's account of marrying a Taiwanese citizen and his experiences obtaining resident status. His situation was different than mine in that I had been married for nearly ten years before applying for Taiwanese residency and di
- Forumosa.com Marriage & Divorce Forum
This is an active expatriate forum containing the latest buzz on marriage and divorce in Taiwan. While not authoritative source, it is a good source of anecdotal information.
- TECRO | Taipei Economic & Cultural Representative Office in the United States
This should be the starting point for any United States citizen seeking a Taiwanese visa. Contains links to local offices where you will submit your visa application and need to have many of your documents authenticated.
- The History of Fermented Tofu
- Taiwan Wedding Info, the free guide for foreigners in Taiwan, with information explaining how to get
I just recently discovered this website. It is clearly laid out and fairly complete.
- Marriage in Taiwan
United States Department of State web page on marriage in Taiwan.
- Civil Marriage in Taiwan
Answers.com topic page for Civil Marriage in Taiwan. Currently little more than a place holder for the 2003 Draft Human Rights Basic Law provides legalisation of same-sex marriage and joint adoption by same-sex couples.
- Getting Married in Taiwan - Steve and Jasmine's Wedding
A series of thorough and well-written blog entries on the entire process of getting married in Taiwan. It is an especially good source of information on what planning the marriage ceremony and banquet in Taiwan entails. It is also provides a descri
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