What’s the best spot to hide out during Coronavirus crisis?
Taiwan, of course!
Well, let’s just say that they’re doing pretty good compared to other developed countries in the world.
We’re only in a semi-lockdown, Taiwan has only closed its borders to people who need visas (or are eligible for a visa-exemption) to come into the country.
Everything else is status quo and all places are opened.
Like with most developed country passport holders, I came in on a 90-day visa exemption.
I arrived here just a few days before Chinese New Year – January 21 – and April 20 was my 90th day.
I was able to extend my stay without leaving the country and here’s how I did it!
- Cost = Free
- Time = 5 days & whatever prep time you need
- Totally worth it to do during corona, where I don’t have to get on a plane.
- It takes up a whole page on my passport
- You may or may not get the full 90 days – it’s on a case by case basis
- Costs way less than flying in & out of the country + accommodation
- Step 1 – Visit BOCA’s website
- Step 2 – Ready Your Paperwork
- Step 3 – Go to BOCA office
- Step 4 – Pick Up Your Passport
Step 1 – Visit BOCA’s website
BOCA stands for Bureau of Consular Affairs, which is, to my understanding, a subsection of MOFA – Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Again, it’s only for Canadian & British passport holders, because there’s some sort of agreement between these countries. Sorry, my friends from other nations!
Go to this link here and download the 4th document: https://www.boca.gov.tw/lp-149-2.html
It’ll tell you with incomplete detail what you need to do to turn your visa-exemption into essentially a 90-day tourist visa.
There’s SUCH a lack of information that I had to call their office.
I called 5 times and tried both the English & Chinese number before someone picked up, and she did NOT have the best phone etiquette.
This is what I found out.
Step 2 – Ready Your Paperwork
On the PDF that you downloaded from above, you only need to worry about Section 2: Required Documents.
Everyone needs to provide 2.1-2.4.
Let me walk you through it.
2.1 – A Completed Visa Application Form & Passport Photos
Visa application form
At first, I was confused because I couldn’t find any visa application form to print and fill out. Until I realized that it’s an online application form – that’s pretty forward!
Click here: https://visawebapp.boca.gov.tw/BOCA_EVISA/ and follow my screen shots below.
- Pick general visa application to start your 7-page questionnaire
They ask for two 2″x2″ color passport photos with a white background that was taken within the last six months.
I happened to have a bunch of passport photos with me from getting my Thai visa extended, HK passport as well as my Return Home Permit, so I used that.
Now, I’m not sure if the size was 2”x2”, but the immigration clerk didn’t seem too bothered. And they weren’t all within 6 months but hey…it’s not like I went and got plastic surgery.
If you don’t have passport photos, on the ground floor of the BOCA office, they have photo booths, so you can just get it done on that day.
2.2 – A British or Canadian passport valid for at least three months
Self-explanatory – bring your passport with you.
They have paid photocopiers at the BOCA office, but the immigration clerk will photocopy anything she needs from you, so don’t worry about it.
2.3 – Extension purpose statement
Just write why you want to extend your stay on a piece of paper. I typed and printed my out.
You must sign and date it on the day that you hand in your application.
As for the reason, well…I didn’t know what to say so I put something down like this:
I’m here for a conference that’s beyond my 90-day exemption period (this is true!), I would like to extend so I can further sightsee in Taiwan and avoid coronavirus at the same time.
My feeble reason(s) seems to have worked.
2.4 – Bank statement
There are actually 3 parts to this section. You need to show:
A) Bank statement of home country – to see how much cash is in your bank account
What I did: I screenshot my online banking dashboard and printed that out.
B) Local ATM receipt – to prove that you can withdraw at least 1000 NTD
It seems ridiculous that to prove I can support myself in Taiwan, I only need to show that I can withdraw $30~ USD at a time…but whatever, their countries their rules.
What I did: I withdrew my maximum daily limit.
C) Your bank debit card – it needs to have your name on it, so they verify against your passport in person.
What I did: I brought it with me to the BOCA office.
2.5 – 2.7 – Relatives, Medical or School
None of these applied to me, so I jumped down to 2.8.
If any of these applies to you, then I don’t think you need a very strong reason for 2.3.
2.8 – Any Other Documentation
This will really depend on your reason in 2.3.
This section is basically for you to back up your reason.
For me, I printed out the conference schedule and my ticket. For you, it’s probably something different.
Step 3 – Go to BOCA office
Here’s the office address and hours in Taipei:
- 3-5 Fl, No. 2-2, Section 1, Jinan Rd, Taipei City, Taiwan(R.O.C)
- It’s close to these 3 MRT stations: Taipei Main, Shandao Temple & NTU Hospital
- Monday to Friday = 8:30am to 5pm
- BOCA Website
I arrived just after lunchtime. There were a lot of people – it made me wish I went right when they opened instead. My total wait time was probably 90 minutes.
But that’s OK!
I went up to windows 31, got my ticket, and used my wait time to eat and withdraw money from an ATM.
They have electric plugs, so feel free to bring your charger for your phone or laptop while you wait.
Finally, my number was called and she was really nice and helpful…maybe because I spoke to her in Chinese to make her job easier.
She basically checked all the documents, then gave me a slip that I need to bring back with me in 5 days’ time to pick up my passport.
I asked her what was the likelihood that I’d get extended, and she said…if they have any issues or further questions, I’d get a phone call.
I left the BOCA office feeling a bit anxious without my passport.
Step 4 – Pick Up Your Passport
I didn’t get a phone call – I guess no news is good news in this case.
After 5 days, I went back to get my passport bright and early in the morning – 8 am. I was #3 in line.
Walked up to the same counter, showed her my slip and she gave me back my passport.
She also made me check the visa with her – very smart – I got the full 90 days.
Unfortunately, the stamp doesn’t indicate the 90th day, so you’ll have to figure it out yourself.
FYI – the immigration clerk told me that the day after you arrive is considered Day 1.
So, was it worth the hassle?
Would I do it again?
If the situation calls for it, for sure.
However, if corona wasn’t an issue, I’d probably just fly out of the country, explore a new city for a few days and come back.
This way, I’d get a no-questions-asked guaranteed 90 days…and it doesn’t take up a whole page on my passport.
But it’s good to know an alternate method to extend my stay without leaving the country.
Hope this helped!