Who’s Eligible for Taiwan’s Employment Gold Card?

Who’s Eligible for Taiwan’s Employment Gold Card?
What you need to know

Interest in Taiwan's Employment Gold Card has grown during Covid-19. Legal consultant Michael Fahey explains the policy and provides a guide to the application process.

Taiwan’s so far successful Covid-19 response has increased interest in the country’s Employment Gold Card program — both from those trying to stay in Taiwan and those seeking to relocate.

Modeled on Singapore’s Employment Pass program, the Employment Gold Card makes it relatively easy for a wide range of “foreign special professionals” to live and work in Taiwan. Since the program’s inception in early 2018, 720 Gold Cards have been issued to professionals in the fields of economy (412), science and technology (118), culture/arts (74), finance (64), education (47), and architecture (5). 

Employment Gold Cards are also available for foreign professionals in the fields of law and sport, although none have been issued to date.

The main attraction of the Employment Gold Card is the flexibility it grants foreign professionals. In the past, most foreign nationals had to find a Taiwanese employer to apply for a work permit to do a specific job at a specific place. In turn, their residency in Taiwan was dependent on that employer and the work permit. If they left the job, they had to eventually leave unless they found a new employer or an alternative basis for residence such as marriage or study. 

The Employment Gold Card frees foreign professionals from being dependent on one employer. Gold Card holders enjoy relatively flexible rights to work and reside in Taiwan. Best of all, they can choose to work for an employer inside or outside Taiwan, do projects for multiple employers, use the Gold Card to study Chinese, or do nothing at all. Typically, Employment Gold Cards are good for three years. Although an applicant can apply for one, two, or three years, most applicants in practice apply for and receive three years.

The Employment Gold Card also has significant tax benefits for those who earn more than NT$3 million and an exemption from Taiwan’s Alternative Minimum Tax, which could be as high as 20 percent. These tax benefits last for three years and can be deferred.

Gold Card holders can also sponsor parents and grandparents for visits to Taiwan lasting for up to one year.

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Qualifications

Each field has slightly different qualifications that are met by providing supporting documents. (The National Development Council (NDC) has a guide to the specific qualifications.) Be sure to download the file(s) at the bottom of each page. These have key details about what documents applicants need to provide to demonstrate qualifications.

The easiest way to qualify in most, but not all fields, is to have earned a salary of at least NT$160,000 (US$5,330) per month from an employer inside or outside Taiwan at some point in the three years before applying. While this is fairly straightforward, the Ministry of Labor’s Workforce Development Agency (WDA) is particular about what kind of income qualifies and what kind of documents need to be provided. Applicants’ income must be salary or wage income, and it almost always must be proven with tax documents. 

For example, an American applicant will generally need to provide an IRS Form W-2 while an Australian will need to provide an income statement from the Australian Tax Office or a PAYG income statement from an employer. While it may be possible in some cases to provide other documents or an employment agreement to prove salary, tax documents are the gold standard.

There are two fields that do not have a salary qualification option: sports and culture/arts. Since no Employment Gold Cards have been issued for sports, it is not clear how difficult applications in this field are.  

In contrast, a respectable number of Gold Cards (74) has been issued for culture/arts. In my experience, the Ministry of Culture has been very supportive of applicants in this field. There is a useful catch-all qualification for foreign nationals in this field who do not meet any of the other qualifications but are approved by the Ministry of Culture. 

Journalists and writers can apply for Gold Cards under the “Publishing” subfield. The standards for popular music, television, and film are quite high (Most electronic music is considered popular music).

Science and technology and finance can also be difficult to qualify for. The Ministry of Science and Technology requires applicants to show expertise in this area in addition to meeting the salary threshold. 

Similarly, applicants in finance need to prove not only salary, but also that the former employer was a financial institution. In many cases, applicants who meet the salary requirement but cannot meet these other requirements are better off applying in the area of “economy.” Broadly speaking, “economy” means business and most other professional work that is not in the other seven fields.

For example, many professionals with a technical background can apply in economics rather than science and technology. Science and technology is mainly for professionals who have, for example, done basic research in fields like artificial intelligence or material science, who have patents, or who have developed a widely used software framework with many applications.

Application Process

While most of the information about Employment Gold Cards is on the website run by the NDC, the actual application is filed on an online platform administered by the National Immigration Agency (NIA). 

If you have questions, make good use of this list of contact windows at the many agencies involved in this program. Most speak reasonably good English. The NIA service line however does not provide English language support about the application platform itself. Many applicants from overseas should consider submitting their passport for inspection overseas and choose the option for card pick up in Taiwan. If approved, you will be able to enter Taiwan on a Resident Authorization available on the online application platform and pick up your card in Taiwan at the local NIA Service Center you designate when you file the application. 

It is usually possible to modify the passport inspection and card pick up options later in the process if your plans change. Be prepared for notifications and requests for additional documentation that are not in perfect English.

As of this writing, it takes about five weeks from application to card pick up in Taiwan if you apply based on salary and have the necessary tax documents. Allow about seven weeks if you apply under a non-salary qualification with pick up in Taiwan.

Currently, Employment Gold Card holders and those with Resident Authorizations can enter Taiwan despite Covid-19 related entry restrictions on most foreign nationals.

In short, the Employment Gold Card provides greater freedom to foreign professionals in Taiwan. While there are sometimes a few hiccups in the application process and the Taiwanese government should be marketing it better, the program has already attracted a very diverse and talented cohort of foreign professionals including set designers, pianists, university professors, software developers, and entrepreneurs. 

The NDC, which planned and rolled out the program very quickly, deserves a great deal of credit for its leadership and vision in creating a program that benefits not only Employment Gold Card recipients, but also Taiwan.


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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty, Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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