After my visits to Pingxi and Jinguashi, I was keen to write an update. I made two-months in Taiwan during the first week of CNY. So, as I started thinking about what to write to reflect back on the past two months, a sick feeling hit me.
The visa I had received in DC was a 60-day, renewable visa. If I’ve been in Taiwan for already two months, that certainly meant I’ve been here for at least 60 days. But I didn’t renew my visa.
Does this mean I was in Taiwan illegally? What should I do now? After all, in two days I was set to leave Taipei for a week long vacation around Taiwan. I didn’t want to be traveling around a foreign place illegally. What on earth was I going to do?
After freaking out a bit, I went into action. I first consulted a friend on the issue. She instructed me I needed to get several papers from the language department office before going to get my visa extended at the immigration office, otherwise, I’d be likely told to go to do a visa run.
Definition: A visa run is when you leave a country for the purpose only to return (sometimes on the same day) in order to renew your visa.
Since it was already school break, I doubted whether the language office was actually open. A phone call wouldn’t hurt, right? Luckily someone picked up! I rushed over to the office and got my papers. The folks at the office told me that I was really lucky – they were planning on leaving for there CNY break within the hour.
With my papers in hand, I rushed to the immigration office. After waiting for nearly an hour, my number was called. I hoped that everything would go smoothly with the immigration officer and that I wouldn’t need to do a visa run. Upon handing over my documents to the officer, everything seemed to be going smoothly. Will this actually work!? Will I no longer be here illegally!?
After swiping my passport, the immigration officer asked me some questions. Apparently I had been in Taiwan for 62 days. I pleaded with him to extend my visa; however, since I had already overstayed my visa, he had no way of extending my visa on his end. I was told to leave the country.
“How soon?” I asked.
“As soon as possible,” replied the officer.
Surprisingly, he told me I shouldn’t worry about the issue, as he’d seen this situation happen many times before. According to the officer, I needed to leave the country asap because I would need to pay an overstay penalty depending on the duration.
On the subway ride back to my apartment, I was feeling a little uneasy. I was leaving for my CNY vacation in about 36 hours, but I was here in Taiwan illegally. What should I do?
After reaching my apartment, I started searching for fares to leave Taiwan. Even though I didn’t want to, for the sake of my conscience, I knew the sooner I could get out of Taiwan, the better. As it was CNY, I was expecting fares out of Taiwan would be exorbitantly expensive ($500+).
Luckily, I found a same-day return ticket to Hong Kong, leaving at 7am and returning at 11pm, on Cathay Pacific. I knew I could likely go to Hong Kong for much cheaper. But given the price and circumstances, I booked the ticket. Since the ticket was within 8hrs, I knew that I shouldn’t sleep; less I risk missing my flight.
I left my apartment at 4am for Taoyuan. At the airport, I headed to the immigration office to pay my penalty fee. Surprisingly, I wasn’t asked many questions; however, the officers stamped a note in my passport saying, “No-visa exemption will be granted to the bearer of this passport for entry prior to (date).” Since I have a visa for entry valid through April, I have no idea what the stamp means, and will need to head to immigration sometime this week to figure it out.
Even though I had left Taiwan, I was still nervous while waiting in immigration to re-enter Taiwan. It was my turn. I headed to the counter.
The officer looked through my passport. He asked, “How long are you studying in Taiwan?” I nonchalantly replied, “Till February.” With that answer, he did some stamping and handed back my passport. I was back in Taiwan—legally!
The past 36hrs was completely crazy. But I’m glad I got everything settled before the big trip down south – now time to relax!