1. Historical aspects
: Republic of China (ROC), popularly known by the name Taiwan, is an island country in East Asia. China, which goes by the name People's Republic of China (PRC) is to its west, Japan to its northeast and Philippines to its south. Taiwan was earlier known by the name Formosa. Until the 17th century, it was a land inhabited only by aborigines. In the 16th century, Portuguese sailors while sighting the land, came up with the name Formosa, meaning 'beautiful island'. It was later in the 17th century that Dutch and Spanish colonizers started allowing Chinese people to migrate in mass to the island. The region then came under the rule of the Qing Dynasty, the last dynasty of China. In 1895, after the Sino-Japan war, Japan took control of the island. Japanese defeat in the World War II led to Republic of China (ROC), which was then ruling the mainland, take control of Taiwan. However, in 1949, in the ensuing civil war in China, the communists defeated the ROC government. The ROC government or the nationalists had no option but to flee to Taiwan to save themselves. In time, the ROC government established its rule there. Meanwhile, the communists or the People's Republic of China led by Mao Zedong established its rule in the mainland. Ever since the Republic of China that represents Taiwan is at loggerheads with the People's Republic of China or mainland China. Decades have passed since Taiwan was separated from the mainland, but the PRC government in the mainland stills considers Taiwan as part of China and refuses to acknowledge it as a separate state.
: The 1960s saw Taiwan following free market economic policies. This led to industrialization and rapid growth of the economy. In recent times, Taiwan has grown up to become the 22nd largest economy in the world. The country ranks very high in terms of economic freedom, human development index, education, healthcare and democratic values. Along with South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, the country has been long known as one of the Four Asian Tigers. The country is an export-driven economy with a large number of technology firms having set up shops in the country. Its industry manufactures products for a host of companies including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and plenty more. Acer, Asus, HTC and Foxconn are the local giants that are popular across the world. In recent years, Taiwan has been opening up to more economic cooperation with China. Taiwan is considered one of the highly educated countries in the world with a very high percentage of people having tertiary or higher education.
3. International standing
: Before 1949, the erstwhile ROC government in China was, in fact, the founder member of the United Nations. The ROC government, even after fleeing to Taiwan, continued to hold the UN seat for China. It was only in 1971 that Taiwan got replaced by the People's Republic of China in the UN. In many of the international organizations, Taiwan is not able to participate as a member state because of the influence of PRC. On many occasions and international events, the country uses the name Chinese Taipei to overcome objections from the PRC. These days, because of the growing influence of the People's Republic of China on world politics, only 17 nations recognize Taiwan, a far cry from the times when almost the entire west had relations with Taiwan, rather than China.
4. Politics and governance
: Taiwan is a democratic republic. The president is the head of state as well as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The President is the most powerful political authority in Taiwan. The President can be elected by popular vote for a maximum of 2 terms of four years each. The government in Taiwan has five branches or Yuans. They are the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Control Yuan and Examination Yuan. The democracy movement in Taiwan initially started as a one-party rule. But today the country is a multi-party democracy. Politics in Taiwan is greatly influenced by the country's relation with China. For the most part of its history after 1949, Taiwan didn't maintain any kind of relationship with its mighty neighbour. Therefore, there have been two camps, one favouring unification with China and the other favouring, complete independence from China.
: Located on the Tropic of Cancer, the climate here is marine tropical. The mountainous regions have a temperate climate. It is mostly hot and humid from June to September. During this time of the year, typhoons too are very common.
- Taiwan is a very small country, even smaller than Switzerland and is thus the 137th largest country in the world.
- From the southeastern coast of mainland China, the island of Taiwan is located only 180 kilometres away.
- The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese.
- The official currency is New Taiwan Dollar, abbreviated as TWD and sometimes as NTD. One US dollar equals to around 30 New Taiwan Dollar.
- With only a single party to rule, the country for long was an authoritarian state with no role for the opposition. It was as late as in the 1980s and 90s that it gradually transformed into a multiparty democracy.
- Even though Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan, the credit for the largest city goes to New Taipei.
- Buddhism and Taoism are the most dominant religion in Taiwan. As per one census in 2005, 26 religions have state recognition in Taiwan.
- The island is in the shape of a sweet potato and those of Taiwanese descent are thus named as sweet potatoes.
- Health insurance is mandatory for international students staying in Taiwan for their studies. In fact, insurance is compulsory for all, citizens, as well as non-citizens, included. It ensures coverage of your medical expenses for any unforeseen circumstances. For attending minor ailments some of the campuses have on-campus health facilities.
- Taiwan is a progressive country in the sense that gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender have full rights here. There is no discrimination on the name of sexual orientation. It is legal for adults to have consensual same-sex activity privately and non-commercially.
- Illegal drug trafficking is severely dealt with. There are hefty fines, severe penalties and long jail sentences for those convicted for indulging in illegal drug trafficking. Some of the drug offences and violent crimes even invite the death sentence.
Admission Process in Taiwan
To get a student visa and subsequently admitted to an institution of your choice in Taiwan, the university should first accept your candidature. The university or the institution then guides you with the entire process of seeking admission and getting a student visa for Taiwan. The university you apply for handles all your entry and visa formalities. The applications are to reach by February of the year the course begins. Students from European Union nations are not required to obtain a student visa before their travel. All others from non-EU nations have to comply with the requirements of the student visa that they have to obtain before travelling to Taiwan. European Union nationals, on the other hand, have to obtain the letter of acceptance from their chosen university and submit proof regarding their ability to fund their stay during their studies in Taiwan. A bank statement, showing a balance of around 3,000 US dollar is usually sufficient enough as proof.
Once you have received the formal letter of acceptance from the concerned university, fill up the online registration form for visa registration. Take a print out, sign it, pay the necessary fees through draft, cash or as desired by the TECC. You can then approach the nearest consulate office, embassy or the Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre (TECC) in India if you are an Indian citizen. Once there, submit the signed visa form along with the supporting documents as mentioned above.
If your application and supporting documents are in order, you will be issued with the Student Visitor Visa for an initial period of 60 days. Once you are in Taiwan, you can then extend the student visa twice, each time by 60 days. You need to extend the student visa before the validity period ends. within this date itself, you will have to get the visa validity date extended. The date is extended multiple times to a maximum of 180 days. In order to renew or extend your visa, a few documents will be needed as follows.
- Confirmation letter from your university regarding your enrollment.
- Your class attendance record for the current and previous months.
- A copy of the passport, along with the original.
Beyond 180 days you will have to obtain a resident visa. The resident visa is to be applied within 160 days of your arrival in Taiwan. Once it lapses, you won't be permitted to stay.
Student Visa Application Process
Anyone who intends to stay in Taiwan for more than three months has to obtain a visa. Students, intending to take up a course that is more than three months in duration have to obtain a student visitor visa. The student visitor visa is, however, valid for a period of only 180 days. Beyond that for long-term degree programs that are more than 180 days in duration, students have to arrange for a Resident Visa and an Alien Resident Card. The resident visa and the alien resident card are to be applied well before your student visitor visa is going to expire, preferably, by the fourth month of your stay itself. In case you fail to do so, you will be left with no choice but to leave the country and apply for the student visa afresh.
In case you intend to stay for more than six months you may go for a visa extension. The following documents will be required for the same.
- Passport with more than six months validity.
- Filled-in application form along with two passport size photographs.
- Admission letter issued by your university or language centre.
- Proof of financial means to support your stay.
- Any other documents as desired
Even though a very modern country, Taiwanese people are very steadfast to their Chinese traditions and lifestyle. Universities in Taiwan, for the sake of overseas students, offer a number of courses that are in English. However, to interact with the local people and in understanding the local culture and customs it is a lot easier if you understand the Mandarin language. You can then immerse yourself in the local culture and make the most of your period of stay in Taiwan. Therefore, it is common to see foreigners trying to pick up the nuances of the Chinese language by undertaking one or the other Mandarin language programs.
The relatively low costs for accommodation and other expenses, allows you to maintain a high standard of living. As the hills are quite close to the city, people here love to go on mountain trails, explore the nature and the numerous parks that dot the area. On weekend breaks, many prefer to explore the deserted beaches and the countryside. Taipei the country's capital is a shopper's paradise with fancy shopping malls. People love to indulge in shopping, going to the movies, restaurants and so on.
Among sports, baseball is the national sport of Taiwan and is very popular with the masses. Other than baseball, basketball and taekwondo have a large following in the country. The country is good at korfball and golf too having won laurels in both the sports at the international level. The country participates as Chinese Taipei in international sporting meets, because of objection from China.
Cost of Living for Students
Compared to most Asian countries, including India, the cost of living in Taiwan is slightly on the higher side, because of the relatively higher standard of living one gets to enjoy there. But compared to the western world, the costs are very less. Most of your expenses will be on accommodation, food, travel and entertainment. Depending on your budget and preference, you can go for the on-campus or off-campus mode of accommodation. It is considerably cheap if you go for on-campus accommodation. You get separate dormitories for both males and females and the rooms are usually shared by four to six students. The costs thus come very cheap. In case you are not comfortable with such arrangements, then you may stay off-campus and take on rent studio apartments or one-room flats. Typically, rent for a one bedroom flat costs around 250 to 350 US dollars a month. Meals at inexpensive restaurants cost you around three to six US dollars. A loaf of bread is around one US dollar and a movie ticket around nine US dollars and so on.
As far as the tuition fees are concerned, the costs depend on the programs and the university you are seeking admission. For example, for undergraduate programs in National Taiwan University, the fees come to around 3,000 to 6,000 US dollars for a year of study. For postgraduate programs depending upon the course, it may come to around 3,000 to 7,000 US dollars per year. These are far less compared to that in the United States or the UK.
Among the other costs, you will have to pay for health insurance that is mandatory for all overseas students, in order to cater for medical emergencies, hospitalization etc. You can either purchase one of your own or take a temporary health insurance from National Health Insurance (NHI). Joining the NHI is must for all those who are going to stay in Taiwan for more than 6 months. Before coming to Taiwan, you also need to obtain a personal accident insurance cover from your native country that will cover for the first 4 months of stay, covering hospitalization, operation, disabilities and death.
Documents for University Admissions in Taiwan
Following are the documents that will be required while applying for a student visitor visa for Taiwan.
- Filled and signed student visa application form.
- Two recent colour passport photographs.
- Your original passport as well as its photocopy with at least six months of validity from your date of arrival.
- Evidence of having enrolled for a health insurance program. Acceptance letter from the university that you have chosen for your studies
- Your health certificate in original.
- Photocopies of all your academic certificates and transcripts.
- A self-written declaration from you, regarding why you want to study in Taiwan and your future plan with regards to your studies.
- Bank and other financial statements that prove your ability to finance your stay in Taiwan for the entire period of stay.
- A return airline ticket to prove your intention of returning.