Case Study – Gold Card Program: Forgetting about foreigners who already live in Taiwan

Notes from the editor: Taiwan has given Gold Card Holders more benefits that those foreigners who are already carved their niche in helping the economy. For example, it was recently was announced that Gold Card Holders can borrow money from banks without needing a Taiwanese guarantor. We particularly picked this article to provide an clearer picture for those foreigners who plan to come to Taiwan either for business, work, school or as a digital nomad.

Contributed by Tomás Swinburne, Ireland

Before jumping into this article, please be aware that the point of it isn’t to antagonize or criticize Gold Card holders. It’s about prioritizing the policies foreign nationals need in Taiwan before a Gold Card program should’ve been implemented.

I think the Gold Card Program isn’t a bad idea. Offering incentives and benefits such as open work permits and so much more to attract world-class and experienced professionals to Taiwan makes sense. However, it might not work and it isn’t likely to solve Taiwan’s problem of attracting foreign talent.

Why? Because the Gold Card program doesn’t tackle the underlying issues that affect foreign nationals and Taiwanese that are here. But then again, why should it? It’s a program to attract high-class foreign talent right? My issue with it is that it can create an air of success for Taiwanese politicians without changing anything for the vast majority of foreign nationals.

For the Gold Card Program to work, politicians, businesses, and Taiwanese society needs to the tackle these issues first.

Underlying Issues Need to Be Tackled Before Launching Gold Card Programs

My problem with the program is that is does nothing to address the underlying problem that necessitates the program in the first place and has probably doomed it from the beginning. Many of these issues are relevant to include both Taiwanese and foreigners. Some of these issues include:

– Low wages that haven’t changed much in over a decade while top management line their pockets

– Toxic work cultures that value the illusion of being busy and working hard on things that matter f**k all

– Insufficient benefits such as childcare and decent maternity leave

– Governments (KMT and DPP) that are always too afraid to confront businesses to treat workers with a bit of decency

– A housing market that has simply gone beyond most people’s means and requiring them to take loans from both their family and banks (double whammy!)

– A lack of political and business will to make any meaningful changes since business ties in government are strong (both KMT and DPP)

– A complete mistrust of work from home initiatives and for workers in general

– Valuing low-cost models instead of moving to value-adding business models and innovating F**k all paid time off for anyone that changes jobs and for many people in Taiwan

– Business environments that want to look international without ever taking the effort to become international

– Pathways to Taiwanese citizenship that are extremely limited and are only usually eased for priests, nuns, and media and social media personalities

– There being absolutely no thought put into how foreign national children that grew up and went to school and belong to Taiwan can integrate into Taiwanese society from a legal perspective

– A lack of affordable education options for foreign children from families that aren’t wealthy

– A lack of job opportunities outside of Taipei and New Taipei City

– Racist and discriminatory attitudes to foreign nationals— particularly Southeast Asians

– The exploitative brokerage system that exploits migrant workers

– Migrant workers in the fishing industry are abused horribly

– Migrant workers aren’t eligible for permanent residency and must leave Taiwan after 12-14 years of working

– Migrant caregivers not being included on the Labor Standards Act and many being paid below minimum wage

– Foreigners residents (except 27,000 APRC holders out of 800,000+ foreign nationals) not being included to receive COVID-19 relief despite being tax payers

– Taiwanese lacking knowledge about the previous points because so many people in Taiwan would gladly campaign and push for reform

This isn’t even a comprehensive list either. You could add far more to the above list. My perspective is quite limited considering I’m a white-collar white European foreign national. If you have any more, feel free to hit the feedback button on the bottom left of this page on Desktop and top drop me a message.


The Government Needs to Prioritize Meaningful Change for Foreign Nationals and Not What They Think Looks Good

“Don’t p**s down my back and telling me it’s raining” is a saying that comes to mind whenever I hear the government discuss how they will change things for the better for foreigners. Even the UI change to foreigner IDs which was supposed to benefit us actually made life far more complicated since we had to change our IDs everywhere they were used (banks, phone companies, NHI, taxes, etc.).

I will probably catch some flack for that title above but it’s the truth. I have Gold Card friends and I work for someone with one. They all have added a tremendous amount of talent to Taiwan, not to mention some of them have invested here. With that said, if the government wants to do something meaningful, a Gold Card program was not the way to go.

We need to be real. What matters is might be summarized as follows:

– Improving the working conditions of migrant workers

– Abolishing the brokerage system and treat migrant workers the same as white-collar workers

– Giving migrant workers a fair pathway to permanent residency

– Give all foreign nationals that are committed to Taiwan a fair pathway to citizenship [I don’t mind doing military service by the way]

Accepting foreign nationals as being part of a modern Taiwanese identity and the eventual inclusion of foreigners to become Taiwanese as not something exclusively for priests, nuns, YouTube personalities, and foreign monkeys on TV regurgitating what Taiwanese want to hear about themselves from a foreigner

To be honest, they probably went with the Gold Card Program because it looks the best. It’s easier to offer them permanent residency after 3 years (despite them Gold Card holders already have open work permits, so what’s the point to reduce the time for an APRC from 5 to 3 years?), open work permits, and othe benefits than tackle myriad of issues that affect most of us.

No, they need a poster child of foreigners. They need a win! They need to say “we are getting the professionals in!”

I get that a program like this is more likely to get approval from the government, but it kind of sucks that the fervor, planning, and enthusiasm to bring in gold card holders didn’t extend to further reform current structural problems.

Closing Thoughts

Not to sound like another broken record (though I will, ha!), there’s a lot of benefits for Taiwan to have a Gold Card system. It will bring in a small but impressive group of individuals who will have a lot to offer Taiwan professionals and personally. However, the real problems that affect most of us foreigners in Taiwan haven’t been resolved. The benefits that Taiwan could get from simply giving most of us permanent residency could ease fears of Taiwan turning into a country with top-heavy demographics with mostly elderly people. We could create ties with our old countries and give Taiwan indirect diplomacy and connections.

Instead, we got the Gold Card Program. I also got lots of friends from the program and that’s nice. I just wish my other Southeast Asian friends could’ve gotten their permanent residency instead of being shown the door after 12-14 years.

This article originally appeared in Tomas’ blog Nihao It’s Going, check it out for more of his opinion about living in Taiwan as a foreigner, in general. We have obtained his permission to post this on our site to help those foreigners who plan to come to Taiwan either for business, work, school or as a digital nomad.

Why is there a Gold Card Anyway – we have this article to answer.