Moving to Taiwan?
Moving to Taiwan
At a Glance:
- Taiwan is highly urbanized: close to 80% of the population live in cities.
- The island’s legal status has been disputed ever since the end of the Chinese Civil War. Due to the One-China Policy, few countries recognize Taiwan as a nation.
- Unofficial representative offices handle many of the usual embassy tasks, including visas.
- Expats hoping to get an employment visa will have to get a work permit first. In most cases, their employer will take care of the application.
Your move to Taiwan will lead you to one of East Asia’s most dynamic and powerful economies — also known as one of the four “Asian Tigers”, next to Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Located some 180 km to the east off the coast of China, the small and densely populated island has made the most of its geographic limitations and cultivated an economy that is also attractive to expats.
Population Density and Expat Numbers
Generally speaking, the steady flow of people moving to Taiwan’s urban areas has led to a densely populated west coast, with the central and eastern regions of the country being much less populated. The rates and numbers of immigrants and expats moving to the country are fairly low, with foreign residents making up not even 3% of the population. However, expat communities tend to be strong, and you should not have a hard time finding other expats, especially in the metro areas.
Get to Know the Main Cities
The large numbers of people moving to Taiwan’s urban areas, both in the past and present, have led to an urbanization rate close to 80%. Large parts of the Taiwanese economy operate in sector clusters in or near metropolitan areas, which is one of the reasons why expats in Taiwan mostly settle in one of the nine urban clusters on the west coast:
- Keelung, New Taipei, and Taipei in the north
- Taoyuan and Hsinchu in the northwest
- Taichung and Chiayi in the west
- Tainan and Kaohsiung in the southwest
Many of these cities boast science parks as a major incentive for expats and multinational companies — we have taken a closer look at these parks in our article on working in Taiwan.
Taipei — The City of Azaleas
Over seven million people call Taipei and its metro region, which includes New Taipei and Keelung, their home — this amounts to over 30% of the total population. Taipei also is a veritable hotspot for expats moving to Taiwan; not very surprising if you consider that the city is not only the national capital but also the most significant city in cultural and economic terms. In 2004, Taipei made international headlines with the opening of Taipei 101, the gigantic skyscraper (and formerly the tallest structure on earth).
The city on the northern tip of the island is also among the first things you are likely to see of the country when first entering or moving to Taiwan, as it is served by the country’s biggest international airport. The Taoyuan International Airport is located some 30 km outside the city limits.
Expats in Taipei will have to face congested streets on a daily basis, although the city administration has reacted to the rising numbers of people in the capital with an extensive network of public transportation options. These range from the Taipei Metro (MRT) to numerous bus lines, including railway and high-speed rail connections to other cities on the west coast as well. While the many different transit agencies providing bus services might seem confusing for newcomers, the Taipei smartcard known as EasyCard is valid on all modes of public transportation throughout the city. You can get the EasyCard at all MRT stations and supermarket chains.
Taichung — The Smart City
Close to 2.8 million people live in Taiwan’s second-biggest city, Taichung, which also boasts the second-fastest population growth rate in the country. Thanks to its central location along the west coast and easy access to the rest of the country — among other things — Taichung has even been voted Taiwan’s most livable city.
While expats moving to Taichung will have to make do with a metro system that is largely still under construction, they can look forward to life in a city that — backed by sizable government investment — aims to be a forerunner in smart-city technology. Taichung puts particular focus on the field of smart and automated manufacturing: for example, a new smart-machinery R&D center, as well as a new industrial park, is set to open by 2019.
Kaohsiung — The Harbor City
Taiwan’s third-largest city is found in the south of the country. Over 2.7 million people live in the Greater Kaohsiung area. The city proper is located right next to Taiwan’s largest commercial and industrial harbor and served by the country’s second-biggest international airport (Kaohsiung International Airport), which helps cement its role as an important trading hub in the region.
The local economy is not only based on shipping and the city’s traditional steel and petrochemical industries, though. Local authorities are seeking to further diversify Kaohsiung’s economy and actively promoting cultural tourism, green energy, R&D in general, as well as the “MICE” industries (meetings, incentives, conventions/conferences, events/exhibitions), among other things.
Hsinchu — Science Park Heaven
With a population of approximately 437,000 in 2016, Hsinchu is notably smaller than the cities mentioned so far. However, it is just as important! Home to Taiwan’s oldest science park — Hsinchu Science Park (HSP) first opened in 1980 — the city and its surrounding municipalities continue to play an important role in Taiwan’s high-tech industry. Local incomes are among the highest in all of Taiwan, with expats and locals alike drawn to the employment opportunities provided by companies in the HSP.
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