Sunday, October 04, 2009

Taiwan-Okinawa Visa Run

For Taiwan-living expatriates in a sudden need to leave the country.

Note: This post is here to save it from Geocities impending death. It seemed to be useful to the occasional Taiwan expatriate, so I thought I would try to keep it. I have not lived in Taiwan since 2005. I made these notes about an Okinawa "visa run" in 2004 when I had to do it, and decided I didn't want to go to Hong Kong, whose Taiwan "consulate" had a bad reputation as being overcrowded, surly, and not very helpful. I actually did the Hong Kong run once, and decided never again. I have checked the address for the Okinawan Taiwan "consulate" and it's still correct as of 2009. I don't know if the fees or airfares have changed since I no longer live there. But once or twice a year, someone seems to find this site useful, so if you want to make a visa run that is much more pleasant than HK, I still recommend spending a day in Okinawa. I enjoyed it completely, despite my surprise at having to make the run at all.

The Taipei-Okinawa flight takes about 1.25 hours. China airlines offers two daily flights to and from Naha International Airport, morning and evening. The fare is about 8,800 NT dollars. It's only a little more expensive than the Hong Kong flight, although Japan itself is a bit more expensive overall.
Change your NT dollars to Yen before you leave Taiwan!!!
The Japanese don't seem to know what to do with the stuff.

There is a monorail linking the airport to the downtown. The airport monorail station is located at the domestic terminal. When you leave the international terminal building, you can see the much bigger domestic terminal to your right. Walk over there (there are sidewalks, it's less than 100m), and go in the terminal to the 2nd floor, and follow the signs.

The monorail station closest to the Taiwan visa office is called "Kencho-mae." The station is right next to a gigantic department store called Palette Kumoji Department store. The fare from the airport is maybe 230 or 260 yen. The station signs indicate the fare. It takes about 15 minutes. The machine takes yen coins or 1000 yen notes. You could also take a bus, but I can't help you there.

The Taiwanese visa office is called the:
Sino-Ryukyuan Cultural & Economic Association
6F, Alte Building, 3-15-9 Kumoji, Naha City, Okinawa
tel: (81-98) 862-7008 fax: (81-98) 861-6536
The list of all the (non-official) consulates is located on this government website.

When you leave the monorail station, walk along under the tracks along the canal in the same way you were headed. After about 3 blocks, to the right, you'll see a Family Mart up the street. Go up there, and turn left. The visa office is in a gray concrete-and-glass building on another corner about 2 blocks up. It's on the 6th floor. There's a small sign out front, with all the offices in the building listed on it. You'll see the name I mentioned above.

Here is the
link to the Google Map of the area. I haven't tagged the office, but the Family Mart I mentioned is clearly marked here..It's in the block numbered "15" in the "Kumoji" district. In the satellite image, it's the layer-cake looking building.

The office is open M-F 9-12 and 1-3 if you're putting in an application.
And you can pick it up the following day M-F 9:30-12 and 1-5.

You can get same-day service if you're willing to pay double.

U.S. Citizens take note!!! Since the U.S. government began charging Taiwanese $100 US for a visa to enter the U.S., Taiwan has responded in kind. The visa fee is 12,200 yen for any kind of visa---single, multiple, whatever (and of course, double that for same-day service). Other countries' citizens will likely find it a little bit cheaper. Single-entry tourist visas are 3600 yen, I think. Americans, write your congressman! Other people, laugh smugly! I don't know if this is still true as of 2009.

About Okinawa, very, very briefly.

The capital of Okinawa is Naha City. Okinawa was heavily bombed by the U.S. in WWII. There are still thousands of American GIs stationed there, and the military owns about 20% of the island. It's heavily developed, with cities, beaches, and tourist resorts; over a million Japanese tourists go there every year.

The Tourist Information counter at the Naha airport was very helpful. They have excellent maps, and a list of all the hotels in the city, their prices, and addresses. The maps also showed the tourist attractions around the island, and the buses to take to get there. She also spoke English; she was the one who showed me where to go for the Taiwan visa office.

If you're uncertain about your surviving in Japanese skills, this person can also book a hotel room for you, so you can choose your price range and your location.

In Naha City, hotels range in price from about 4000 Yen to 20000 Yen a night. For a pretty close Yen/NT Dollar approximation, divide by 3. (4500 Yen = 1500 NT). The map also shows loads of things to do and see around the island. The beaches are nice, but FAR from town. I've heard that the pretty places are the offshore islands, which can be reached by ferry from Naha and elsewhere. (there are 2 ports in Naha, and others around the island--study your maps carefully). The buses are also reasonably easy to understand, if you're the sort of person who knows how to figure things out. Go to the bus terminal and look around.

I have to offer a brief plug for the Yagi Hotel, which was one block from the bus terminal, and which was cheap, clean included free breakfast, and the desk clerk was absolutely wonderful, even though she didn't speak any English

More Visa Matters...

The visa officer I met spoke English, Japanese, and Chinese, so you shouldn't have a problem. He seemed sympathetic to my plight, though in all fairness, I didn't tell him the exact truth. Take note, though, that you should bring along all your documentation and anything else that might even be remotely useful. Here are some things to consider:

1. Three (3) passport photos.
2. photocopy of your passport (front page, with personal info.)
3. plane ticket out of Taiwan to another country, and a photocopy of that ticket.
note: some travel agencies will issue you a one-way ticket for another country and then refund it when you return, minus a fee (500-600NT).
4. Anything else you can think of. For instance, the application asks for a reference in Taiwan. It can be another foreigner, but they must have an ARC card. Take a copy of that, too.
5. Know the name of your employer and their phone number. Maybe you shouldn't write that on the form, but if they are helping you out, or even if they're not helping you out, maybe you can spread the governmental misery around a little by mentioning their name.

It used to be that the Okinawan "visa" office did not issue your visa there in the office. They prepared a completed, approved form which you had to take back to Taiwan with you and get the actual visa passport sticker at the Bureau of Consular Affairs office (between the immigration queues at CKS airport.) According to a reader of this page in 2008, the Okinawan office will now issue you the visa sticker in their office, so you're ready to go once you stop back the next morning to pick up your documents. I cannot remember if they had to keep your passport overnight.

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At January 21, 2010 at 4:28 AM, Blogger James said...

thanks for the post! very helpful. I've been to HK 4 or 5 times already and really wanna go somewhere else ;)


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