Fri, Apr 06, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Working holiday visa might be offered to help ease agricultural labor shortage

By Wu Hsin-tien  /  Staff reporter

A working holiday program is to be offered to young people from Southeast Asian nations to ease a labor shortage in the agricultural sector, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said.

Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand would be the first nations targeted by the program, the council said, adding that as the Vietnamese government is optimistic about the program, it expects collaborations to begin later this year.

The council is next week to invite officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Labor to discuss the plan, it said.

The foreign ministry has signed working holiday programs with 15 nations, including New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, but people from developed countries are less likely to visit Taiwan on a working holiday, council Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said.

Given that there are many Southeast Asian people married to Taiwanese or who already work in Taiwan, the council wants to prioritize agreements with Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand first, he added.

The working holiday program is to be open to applicants aged 20 to 45 for at least 180 days, which can be extended for one or two years, the council said.

Following the council’s preliminary planning, the foreign ministry will negotiate details with other nations, the council said.

However, visitors from Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are considered at higher risk of overstaying their visas, council Personnel Office Executive Secretary Tsai Pei-chun (蔡佩君) said.

The council is to consider granting visas to those who have family in Taiwan first and allow them to apply for visa extensions, she said.

Given that the majority of the nation’s foreign spouses are Vietnamese, the program would offer about 300 places to Vietnamese, the council said, adding that the program would allow a maximum of 1,000 people from Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The council hopes that negotiations with the countries will focus on job openings in the agricultural sector, she said, but added that applicants might be able to change jobs.

First-time visas are expected to be set at six months, and officials might ask those applying for visa extensions to present documentation showing that they have worked in the agricultural industry for at least three months, she said.

Agricultural businesses could consider retaining foreign workers who perform well while on their working holiday, and those with specialized skills are likely to earn up to NT$47,000 per month, she said.

The Nantou and Yunlin county governments have expressed an intention to open working holiday programs for family members of foreign spouses, Tsai said.

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