An Impromptu Visa Run


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.

See here for my day trip to Hong Kong

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!