How Taiwan Failed Us As a COVID Safe Haven

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

Taiwan was our Plan A destination as we tried to exit Europe before winter came and to stay in a Covid safe and warmer environment. We began the process of getting entry approval since early September and now over three months later, we are still in Europe and Taiwan's border remains firmly shut to us - as we haven't been able to meet one very unreasonable "silly" demand.

Let's go back a little bit and start from the beginning. Back in August some fellow full time travellers informed us of Taiwan's Gold Visa - it's an employment visa which allows residency and employment for up to three years. In order to qualify the visa, one can use income method or skill method. The above fellow travellers applied and obtained the visa with little effort. As a result, they can stay in Taiwan for three years with multiple entry and also enjoy the national medicare system like a local.

We have always wanted to visit Taiwan and now encouraged by the fellow travellers, we decided to look at the visa requirements in detail to see if we would qualify. After some reading, we were very pleased to realise that Brad would qualify without a problem! With his skill background, he could mentor some technology companies there if opportunities come up. With my Mandarin speaking ability, we would feel very at home there for as long as we wish (well, three years at most).

So we jumped online and made the application. Everything was a breeze from the start and within one month, Brad got his Gold Visa approved! At that stage we were very impressed by the efficiency of the government system.

Our next task was to apply for a Spouse Visa or a Special Entry Permit for me because I can't just accompany Brad to enter the country without a valid visa. I couldn't qualify for the Gold Visa unfortunately, so the above two visas were my choices.

In order to apply for a valid visa outside Taiwan, I was required to apply in person at one of the Taiwan overseas mission offices. Since we were in Portugal at the time, I contacted the Taiwan Economic & Cultural Office (TECO) there.

Well, the seed of the complication actually germinated before I contacted them. Brad had to have his passport verified by that office prior to his visa approval, so he went and sat through an interview as part of the process. During that process, the officer learned that I was born in China although I am an Australian passport holder now. She advised Brad immediately that in order for them to accept my visa application, I have to provide an original document that shows I no longer have a Chinese passport.

This document, "Termination of nationality certificate of the PRC", is THE very obstacle that stopped our smooth-sailing journey from entering Taiwan!

To start, I still honestly don't understand why on earth they require such a document. I originally thought it's because the tension between Taiwan and PRC politically so that they don't accept any Chinese passport holder's visa application. But then I found out they do process visas for Chinese passport holders.

I never heard of that document because according to the Chinese Nationality Law, once I became an Australian citizen, I automatically lost my Chinese nationality. Neither the Chinese government or the Australian government had the need for me to produce such a document. It's been over 15 years since I became an Australian and I had never once been asked for such a document.

I offered to show my Chinese Visitor's Visa in my Australian passport to show that I don't have a hidden Chinese passport. It was not accepted. The TECO office in Portugal firmly said that without that document, they can't do anything for me and no further advice was provided.

The truth is - I simply can't obtain that document without being in China personally and even then I'm not sure how to start. I contacted numerous relevant Chinese embassies and government bodies in Australia, China, UK and even Albania (the next country we would go after Portugal) and hit a stone wall everywhere I went. They either didn't know about that document or wouldn't accept my application to get that document since I am on longer a Chinese citizen. I even contacted a lawyer in China and was told the fee would be AUD$3500 although he never heard of such a document.

We also tried to get assistance from the Gold Card team in Taipei, but were told that they had no authority over the TECO offices and couldn't do anything. We wrote to the Director of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan and were only advised that our email was forwarded back to the TECO office in Portugal to deal with!

The only less firm "no" I received was from the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security call center in Shanghai who couldn't advise if or how to get that document but instead told me to see a counter agent at their service center at 1500 Minsheng Road, Shanghai!

We called the TECO office in Brisbane Australia to see what they would require if we were back in Australia. The office was very aware that I couldn't provide such a termination nationality certificate and said they would check my passport to see if I had been in China for more than 30 consecutive days in the last four years to determine if they would accept my application or not. That would work for me, except for the cost and hassle of trying to get back to Australia as they wouldn't allow a remote application - long wait queue of a scheduled repatriate flight, at least AUD$10,000 per person flight tickets and AUD$3000 per person for 14 day quarantine.

Before our arrival in Albania, we contacted TECO in Italy and Greece as Albania has no TECO. The office in Greece totally ignored us without any reply. The Rome office told us that I can't apply there. When we replied to their email asking questions, they never got back to us. We tried to call them to obtain further information, but could never get through their phone line, so we still haven't been able to speak with them to this day.

So that was the short version of the three month long struggle of trying to obtain one impossible document. And we still don't understand the sensible reason for requiring it because it simply defies logic and common sense - if a Chinese passport holder can enter Taiwan and any non-Chinese passport holder can also enter Taiwan, why is it that a former Chinese passport holder can not?? I wish I could find the answer for it one day!