Sat, Nov 19, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Tell us what's legal

By Paul Andrew

Recently there has been much concern among native English-speaking teachers regarding some recent alleged deportations of English Second-Language (ESL) teachers for not being "legal" for whatever reason. Perhaps they had been misinformed as to their legal status as teachers, and perhaps they knew exactly what they were doing. We, as their colleagues, may never really know the truth.

But as A. Arnold points out (Letters, Nov. 17, page 8), work permits and Alien Resident Certificates (ARCs) are two different things. Even though I have been working in Taiwan as an ESL teacher for two years, I'm still not fully informed on the finer details of the laws governing the working status of foreigners in Taiwan. Quite simply, I rely on my school to be honest and law-abiding in their dealings with me. I don't think any Taiwanese school owner could fully explain the intricate and sometimes baffling rules that apply to ESL teachers and their legal status.

I know I'm not alone in this situation. I've talked to some Canadian and US school managers and owners who cannot explain all of the conditions, pre-requisites, exceptions and whatever else should be known when teaching ESL here in Taiwan. So perhaps it's time that an information letter is produced for the ESL industry that outlines exactly what the process is, and what is acceptable and not acceptable. This should be handed out with every ARC.

As I have learned in my short time here, there seems to be many "gray areas" that are accepted as common practice in some schools and seen as unacceptable in other schools.

There is a very popular Taiwan message board used by numerous ESL teachers here and abroad on which the recent deportation of several ESL teachers has been debated at great length, and rightly so. Some of the teachers were apparently deported because they were informed by their schools that they were legal when in fact they were not. So now these people must face the shame of their family and fellow countrymen for breaking a law that may not have been clearly defined for them.

I'm guessing that few foreigners welcome being deported for any reason. Even an interrogation by the local police can be quite overwhelming, given the fact that most of us are under the impression that we are legally working in Taiwan. Most often it is an error by the teacher, the school or the authorities that has caused a great deal of embarrassment for an individual.

So to this end, a fact sheet should be drafted by the proper Taiwanese authorities so that the nation as a whole does not gain a dubious reputation in the industry of ESL instruction. Good news travels fast, bad news travels faster.

Admittedly, we English teachers have it pretty good in Taiwan compared with some other foreign workers, and I am enjoying myself despite the language barrier. However, if we are running the risk of deportation simply by doing our job, then it would be nice to know.

Paul Andrew

Tainan City

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