Taiwan Move for Freediving - Do You Qualify for Gold Card? (2021)
JAN 2021 UPDATE - I am teaching freediving in Taipei and Xiaoliuqiu, Taiwan, please click here to find out more.
I’m moving to Taiwan. To freedive.
Actually, WE are moving to Taiwan (me and my wife, Sheila)
That was not the original plan when this year started which was mostly centered around freediving.
Nor was getting married, but we thought "what the hell, let's do this".
Super romantic, ya, I know.
Sheila and I got married on May 28. 2020 in Las Vegas
Sheila made a Youtube video about getting married in Vegas during COVID-19 lockdown here
When I first started this journey into freediving and being a freedive instructor, I gave myself the moniker of Freedive Nomad to hopefully be a self-fulfilling prophecy of traveling the world with freediving as the medium.
I love traveling, I especially love slow traveling (read Rolf Potts book Vagabonding) and discovered this shortly after moving to Asia just after I graduated from university.
However, I got going in my career and making a family pretty quickly and that kinda got put on the back burner.
Not anymore, right?
Errrrr, wrong. For now anyway.
The original plan was to come to Vegas (for a wedding, not ours), where me and my wife have been staying with my parents since February 2020, then go to Mexico and roam around for a bit and check out the Xibalba competition in April and then make our way over to Croatia for Deep Week at the end of summer. And maybe Kalamata? We even had our plane tickets booked.
Y’all know how those plans got screwed.
I then shifted to building a freedive community in the middle of the desert in Las Vegas and try to teach as many people as possible and bring together existing freedivers in Sin City.
As we entered summer we decided to move to Taiwan, which is where we met, where I’ve lived for over ten years over 3 different stints from 1998-2019 and where I took my first freediving course.
WHY DID WE DECIDE TO MOVE TO TAIWAN?
Lots of reasons……
- SAFE-ISH FROM COVID-19 - You may have seen it in the news that despite being predicted to be one of the worst to be hit by COVID-19 due to its proximity to China and the number of people moving between the countries (hundreds of thousand of people travel from China to Taiwan during Chinese New Year which is usually around January and February).
Despite that, Taiwan's been recognized as one of the top countries in terms of response to the virus. The country enacted 124 distinct measures to prevent the spread of the virus including early screening of people from China (they started in December 2019) and tracking individual cases. At the time of this writing Taiwan has only had 7 deaths from the virus and a few hundred cases, only.
Thus having a semblance of a normal life would be AWESOME. For the most part, life in Taiwan resembles life before COVID. More than any country out there anyway.
- CITIZENSHIP - Even though I’ve lived in Taiwan a long time and qualified for permanent residency in my first stint, I never got permanent residency. Major oversight by me.
No worries though, as I am eligible for citizenship through my father. Despite that, there are still a lot of hoops I need to jump through which can’t be resolved right away, so I applied for and got approved for a GOLD CARD which I will get into later.
Why would I want another citizenship? Suffice it to say there were some emotional reasons and some very pragmatic reasons like health care (next section). Not to mention, options are always good.
But perhaps I am still scarred by the plane hijacking movies in the 80’s where they rounded up all those with American passports to be executed first.
Once I’ve jumped through all the hoops I need to I will then need to reside in Taiwan for a continuous 365 days.
Honestly, not a bad place to live for a year during these times.
My Taiwan passport, but I can't use it yet for travel
- HEALTHCARE - on top of having an amazing response to COVID-19, Taiwan has a good reputation in their healthcare system.
Take this case in January 2019 when an American overseas student, who was not enrolled in the National Health Insurance program yet, went to the ER of one of Taiwan’s top hospitals with a stomach flu.
Within 20 minutes, he was checked in by an English-speaking nurse and was receiving IV fluids and anti-emetic medication (for nausea and vomiting). After several hours there receiving IV fluids, a sonogram and blood test he was discharged with some medication and guess what the bill came to.
Not bad for paying out of pocket.
This is not some one-off either. My experiences have been very similar.
When you are enrolled in the National Healthcare system a small percentage of your earnings go into the program and that’s most of the cost. When I see a doctor or go to the dentist for teeth cleaning the co-pay is only US$5.
Before I moved out of Taiwan I bought 6 months of my prescription meds out of pocket, total cost US$150, that would have been one month of my meds in the US. And as the world knows, health care and health insurance are ridiculous in the US and having Taiwan citizenship insures that I can have my medical problems taken care of should any arise and that’s comforting to know, especially as I advance in age.
I still have 17 years until I am eligible for Medicare in the US (which is the US form of national healthcare). So, good to be prepared
- FREEDIVING - It’s not the best in Asia, but its pretty damn good! I took my first two courses on a little island called Xiaoliuqiu which is a stone's throw from the second largest city in Taiwan. There are lots of shore diving with depths of 45 meters. Warm waters, killer viz and lots of turtles. At the southern most tip of Taiwan is a beach resort community called Kenting. They have shore diving and boat diving to 60m+. There is fun diving on other islands like Green Island and Orchid Island and one of the handful of deep pools in the world, Divecube which gets 21 meters of depth.
I know this is far from a comprehensive write up about freediving in Taiwan but keep a watch out as I will start writing more about freediving in Taiwan once I am there.
But if you want to go to Taiwan and learn freediving in English I suggest you look up those below who I know and trust.
Top English-Speaking Freedive Schools
Photo during my first freedive course on Xiaoliuqiu Photo credit - Donny Mac of the Freedive Cafe
- COST - Taiwan is CHEAP for a fairly developed nation. Rent is a few hundred dollars a month. Food is GOOD AND CHEAP (you could get away with US$10 a day for food) and buying a used scooter will cost you US$300-500. Scooter is the main source of transport if you don’t live in major cities like Taipei or Kaohsiung which both have incredilbe public transport systems. This country is perfect for digital nomads I reckon. You can get away with US$1000 a month budget for living.
WHY IS TAIWAN SO AWESOME?
First and foremost, Taiwanese are more alike to Southeast Asians than the stereo-typical colder North Asians. They are so warm, friendly and kind. Lots of countries in Asia have problems with xenophobia, not Taiwan, in fact, THEY ARE XENO-FRIENDLY. They LOVE FOREIGNERS IN TAIWAN.
Take for example, when I first moved to Taiwan in 1998. There are A LOT OF scooters in Taiwan and a taxi driver was dropping me off at my apartment which is on a small alley. When you get out of a car you are suppose to look behind you before opening the door to make sure there aren’t any scooters zooming through. I didn’t and opened it onto a scooter zooming by. He was pissed. My taxi driver pleaded with the scooter dude not to be pissed as I was a foreigner. Surprisingly, scooter dude chilled out and left without incident.
For being a small island nation, it's got A LOT going for it especially if you are an outdoorsy type. During my time there I have hiked, scuba dived, surfed, river traced, wakeboarded and of course FREEDIVING.
I haven’t done it yet but there are some decently big peaks in Taiwan are Jade Mountain and Snow Mountain which I hope to conquer on my fourth stint there.
Surfing is amazing in Kenting and Taitung City, I am told. Some of the best in Asia.
I’m hoping to go scuba diving on Green Island for hammerhead sharks February of next year.
Food is my other passion and I love eating in Taiwan. If you don’t know the history of Taiwan, the island was occupied by the KMT after being defeated by the communist in China during the civil war and retreated to the island.
With them, they brought chefs from all over China and thus the quality and variety of Chinese food is something to seriosuly brag about. Moreover, the quality of their chicken, pork, eggs, vegetables and fruit has impressed me. Even the eggs you buy at the 7-11 has an amazingly healthy orange yolk, a sign that the chicken has had a more natural diet. It also has a Free Trade Agreement with New Zealand so you can get a great deal on healthier grass-fed beef and lamb.
Check out this CNN article on the top 40 food and drink in Taiwan.
Taiwan night markets and street food is legendary.
And did you know one Taiwanese restaurant was rated as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world by The NY Times in 1983. That restaurants, Ding Tai Fung, now has branches in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore and there are still more to come. If you have never heard of it or never eaten there, put it on your bucket list. It also makes a good case study on a near perfectly operated restaurant. Read this Huff Post article about it
Ding Tai Fung - world's most famous dumplings
Hot springs that almost rivals Japan.
Sheila's photo of me the first time we went to a hot spring in Taipei
Best tea in the world.
And amazing landscape that'll take you years to photograph it all.
To understand the beauty of Taiwan - check out this award-winning documentary Beyond Beauty - Taiwan from Above
Now, if I’ve convinced you Taiwan is an awesome place to be and you wanna go, here’s how you get in now that the borders are shut due to COVID 19 - > get the Gold Card
WHAT IS THE TAIWAN EMPLOYMENT GOLD CARD?
It is part of a government effort to bring highly skilled foreign professionals into Taiwan, which started in early 2018. So if you are highly skilled at something, HOORAY! Maybe?
You qualify under one of eight categories: Science and Technology, Economy, Finance, Education, Culture and Arts, Sports, Law and Architectural Design.
Click here to see what the qualifications are under each category
The category that has the most approvals is under the Economy category while no one has been approved in the field of law or sports. To qualify under sports, you must finish in top 3 at the Olympics, or gold at the Asian games, or served as a national team coach with excellent results. So I guess we are shit out of luck as freedivers.
Each category has its own requirements. For example, I applied under finance given my 20 years in the biz. Their primary requirement was your previous salary was over a certain threshold, and they only required scanned documents as evidence.
My wife applied under Cultures and Arts as she is a film school grad and their requirement was winning an international award and/or professional certifications, which she had both but still got rejected. Weird.
They call it a 4-in-1 card as you get 1) legal right to live in Taiwan 2) an ARC card which proves your legal right to stay in Taiwan 3) multiple entry visa and 4) open work permit which allows you to work for whichever company you want without having to re-apply for visas when you change jobs as you’ve had to in the past. I believe this will also allow freelancers and digital nomads to legally work in Taiwan.
You can apply for it while in Taiwan or outside of Taiwan. My provisional approval took less than 30 days and then I sent my passport to the Taiwan consulate in US for them to send to Taiwan to get the proper stamps in my passport. That took around 6 weeks. However, it took my wife almost two months to get her rejection.
This information I am providing I understand is far from exhaustive - but check out the resources below for more information.
I hope this helps you in your considerations of where you could move to and freedive during these COVID-19 times and if you have any questions regarding this topic, please reach out to me, I’ll do my best at answering your questions or referring you some place you can find the answers.
UPDATE - for those who are not eligible for the Gold Card, consider the Entrepreneur Visa. Though most of their requirement are pretty tough, most should be able to get in through being sponsored by a government sponsored co-working space. Check this blog out for more info.
TOP RESOURCES FOR TAIWAN GOLD CARD
TWO WEBSITES STARTED SINCE BLOG PUBLISHED