You’ve finally made your decision. After hours of deliberation and weighing the pro’s and con’s you’re ready to leave behind your home country and voyage to Taiwan for a life of adventure and excitment (maybe you’ll contribute to society too if you ever get around to it). First thing’s first: you’re going to have to get a visa, a job, and an apartment, but not necessarily in that order.

Citizens of all the English speaking countries that are elligible to apply for working permits as English teachers enjoy “visa free” entry. This means you will get a stamp upon arrival that allows you to stay for 30 days. Even though I got a visitors visa before arrival, it’s unnecessary, and I don’t recommend it. If you don’t have a work permit (more on that later) by the end of these 30 days, then you can do a “visa run”. This means flying to Hong Kong and back in order to get a new 30 day stamp.  If you’re thinking about learning Chinese anyways, you can extend your landing visa by applying for Chinese language classes at the local university. I highly reccomend doing this weather you need the visa extention or not.

I’d initially had a job offer that got retracted about a month before my flight out so I wound up finding a job after landing. Getting a job ASAP helps in two ways: it helps to pay for hookers and blow, and it grants you a working ARC (Alien Resident Certificate). This is effectively a renewable, one year visa that allows you to work legally and get on the national health insurance plan. If you are arriving without a job already locked down, it’s best to come in August or January when schools are looking for new teachers to fill vacancies the next semester.

The only requirements for getting a working permit as an English teacher are: holding a passport of an English speaking country and having either a)  a bachellors degree or b) an Associates degree and a TEFL certificate. (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). I did the latter. Go ahead and find the cheapest, fastest TEFL program you can. You are unlikely to learn anything that you cant learn on the job. I have a 20 hour certificate that took me two days and a few hundred dollars to obtain and I barely stayed awake during the seminar. It’s just as good as a two month intensive course for the purpose of getting your ARC. An intensive TEFL or CELTA can give you a leg up on some countries but this is not one of them. In fact, the schools will often require you attend their own training seminars regardless of how experienced or qualified you already are. Don’t waste your money on intesive courses. Those funds are better spent on Chinese classes and booze.

Finding a job here is easier than finding Hello Kitty merchadise in an all girls middle school. My favorite site is Tealit and if you want to lcokd own a job before arrival, I highly reccomend it. Also make sure to look for (name of your future city) Teachers Board on Facebook. Taichung Teachers Board covers the area I live and it is loaded with full time, part time and substitute jobs. Some have had luck pounding pavement and going door to door with a stack of resumes. I haven’t. The final method iss my signature move and trust me: I’ve saved the best for last. Go the the website for your franchise of chose and find the phone directory for all the branches in your area. Call them one by one until you find one that is looking for teachers. This is by far faster than pounding pavement and will help you find the jobs that aren’t advertised online. Whatever you do, keep scheduling new interviews until you have signed a contract. No matter how much they seem to love you, local employers are flaky. They may seem to love you in the interview but rather than tell you “no”, they just wont call back. Don’t be that guy, waiting like a love sick 16-year-old, for a call that isn’t coming.

Aside from a steady paycheck, you need a roof over your head and the best way to arrange that is to let the locals do it for you. The Taiwanese are very helpful. As a matter of fact, if you are white, you and tall, the local girls are VERY helpful. That includes “helpful” in all the ways you fantasise about during your yellow-fever induced hallucinations but that is not what we are concerned about right now so tuck your boner in your waist band, refocus and ask for help finding an aprtment. This inculdes: employers, coworkers, girls you pieplined before arriving and even stangers you bump into on the street. My first week I spent in a hotel that my college classmate helped me find. My second place was a dorm that I found by asking the girls who work in the Feng Chia University chinese Language Department. I spoke just enough Chinese to work out how much the rent and security deposit cost but I could have just as easily asked any of the English speaking studnets on campus to act as an interpreter. The third place was found by a Taiwanese dude who played guitar in our band. I told him that I want a larger apratment and he got back to me 10 minutes later with 5 options. Anyways, you get the idea. The Taiwanese want to help you. Don’t be selfish; give them the opportunity to do so.

 Once you are employed and settled in, the next priority is getting legal before you’re kicked out and forced to pay for the construction of a wall to keep you out (woops! Wrong country). You are going to need a working ARC. You’re employer will send in the paperwork and usually will pay the fee but you’re still gona have to get some pictures taken, get a healht check and provide the requisite documents. Your boss will point you to the closest photo shop with a letter explaining what you need so long as you ask nicely like your momma taught you to. Pictures: check. Your employer can also tell you when and which hospital to have your health check done. Hail a cab and fake a seizure once you are inside. The driver will take you straight to the hospital. The health check itself will involve a chest x ray, a blood draw and some miscelaneous tests that employ otherwise unoccupied staff. If you don’t have tuberculosis then you’ll pass the x ray, if you haven’t picked up syphillis or HIV from your hedonistsic way then you will pass the blood draw and if you have a pulse, you will pass everything else. A week or two later, you will be back to pick up a clean bill of health.
At this point, you are in Taiwan with a job and a shiny (because it’s laminated) new ARC, untarnished except for your very own ugly mug. In part two, I’ll talk about money. That is: how much of it you need to live in Taiwan.