The Ministry of Education is working on a plan to regulate non university-affiliated language schools, in an effort to ensure that foreigners studying in Taiwan are not applying for visas under false pretences.
Officials from the Bureau of Consular Affairs and Ministry of Education said there was currently no regulation that allowed authorities to differentiate between authentic language schools and organizations that enabled foreigners to work illegally in Taiwan.
By law, people applying for visas to study in Taiwan must submit documents certifying that they are enrolled in a school. It is illegal for a foreigner to work in Taiwan without a work permit issued by the central government.
Many foreigners come to Taiwan saying they are studying Chinese, but in fact enter the country to work illegally, officials said.
A section chief at the consular affairs bureau, who asked to be identified only by his surname, Chou, explained that the term "student visa" did not actually exist in visa regulations.
Chou said that there were many foreigners from developed countries who enter the country to work, when the documents they provided for visas were actually for studying Chinese.
He said that schools which sponsor foreign students must be universities or language centers that are registered on a list that the education ministry gives to the bureau for a visa to be issued.
Education ministry officials said it was a rumor that there was a new regulation that mandated a crackdown on all visas for foreign students studying at language centers that were not affiliated with universities.
However, the education ministry acknowledged that it was trying to tighten regulations to remove some schools from its list of authorized schools.
The bureau hopes that the ministry will complete its re-evaluation of the list by the end of March, Chou said.
Chou said that there have been some previous problems with ministry's current list of accepted schools. He did not identify which schools had been problematic.
Two of the schools were in fact "associations" that although legally established, were not registered as language-education schools, he said.
The two schools had already enrolled many students in their language programs, he added.
There is a grace period until the end of March before some -- but not all -- registered language schools may be removed from the current list, Chou added.
The reason that it has proven difficult to regulate language schools is that the education ministry is only responsible for universities, while language centers, which fall under the responsibilty of local governments, are not under ministry management, officials said.
However, since the ministry is in charge of foreign-student affairs, many non-university language centers ask it to provide a recommendation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that their students can obtain visas if otherwise qualified, officials added.