'Visa run' unnecessary for foreign students in Taiwan changing schools: MOFA

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(CNA photo)

International students seeking to continue their tertiary education in Taiwan or transfer from one university to another are not required to leave the country for a "visa run," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Sunday, in response to a petition on the issue.

Once a foreign national holds a visitor's or resident visa for the purpose of Mandarin language study, academic exchanges, joining family members or employment, the holder can apply within Taiwan for a student visa for degree programs, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said in a statement.

International students with a valid student ARC can also change schools at the tertiary level without leaving the country, Ou said, responding to a petition posted recently on the website Change.org, which calls for foreign nationals to be allowed to change status without leaving Taiwan, particularly in view of the current border restrictions due to the COVOD-19 pandemic.

"Taiwanese government requires foreigners to leave the country if you are changing status (commonly known as visa run)," states the petition titled Allowing Foreigners Change Status Without Exiting Taiwan.

"Most countries are on lock down, and there's very limited to no flight operating," the petition states. "Even though there were flights, why should we risk our lives just to change school or changing status?"

It says that while a visa run is not necessary if a student is moving from Mandarin language studies to a degree program, it is required for a change in the other direction and a transfer between universities.

According to MOFA, however, that information is outdated, as the Taiwan government instituted a new policy in 2018 to encourage foreign nationals to study and remain in Taiwan.

The only regulation that was retained is that foreign students at the tertiary level are not permitted to switch to Mandarin language school on the same visa, upon completion of their studies, Ou said.

This is to prevent foreign nationals from working illegally in Taiwan, using language school as a front, she said.

In addition, foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas are required to leave the country and apply for a new visa at a Taiwan embassy or representative office before being allowed to reenter, Ou said.