Let me just preface this story by saying that, like most of the catastrophes I find myself in, this could have been completely avoided with better planning. But, as you’ll probably find if you stick around and read more of my stories, I’m unbelievably lazy about planning, so here we go:
I previously lived in Taipei, where I was a student at Shida, or more formally known as National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center. I was the recipient of a language enrichment scholarship that afforded me a permanent resident’s visa, which allowed me to leave the country and re-enter without needing an additional visa (US citizens may visit Taipei for up to 30 days without a visa, after that, you need to have one to stay. They run a couple hundred bucks assuming you don’t need it expedited). This visa was very valuable to me, as I had every intention of traveling around the area while living abroad – which I did!
This all went along just fine for me until I made a horrible mistake. It was a random Wednesday in March and it dawned on me that a very important date had passed. I felt a flash of heat go across my body. I frantically fondled around my bag for my wallet, then flipped through and confirmed my worst fears – my visa card had expired.
Hoping this wouldn’t really matter, I sat on it for another two weeks figuring it couldn’t hurt (Which is really dumb. Don’t do it.) and I finally made it into the visa office in Taipei to renew it. I took my number, waited my turn, and gave the necessary paperwork to the attendant. “This is expired, you can’t renew here,” he said to me. “You need to get another temporary student visa, or a work visa, and you must leave the country first, you’re not here legally right now.”
Are you serious?! Face, meet palm.
Why I didn’t think this would be a problem, I really don’t know. Seriously. How. Freaking. Stupid. But my bed was made.
I knew that I couldn’t procure another student visa because I had missed too much class due to an impromptu trip a couple of months earlier. In order to retain a student visa, one could not miss more than 5 days of class per semester. Had I renewed my visa before the expiration, this would never have mattered.
Unsure what to do, I returned to my flat on Wen-Zhou Street and started informing my friends I’d be coming back to California. My buddy Dee, laughing, said to me “Kristin, you’re an illegal alien!”
My goodness, he was right!
My options were to leave the country for good and return home, or leave Taipei every 30 days in order to get a new visa – and they aren’t cheap.
I didn’t have enough money to travel around anymore, so I hung my head and admitted defeat. This was a sign, it was time to go.
I purchased a flight home and, when I arrived at the airport in Taipei, was told to pay a stiff fine and then hand over my passport, which they stamped with a scarlet letter (ok it was purple) stating that for the entire following year, I was not to return without a visa, even for fewer than 30 days.
The fine was a painful one. But I felt left with no choice as I did want to return to Taipei again one day. I noticed the only other people at the window for the bad bad deed of overstaying a visa were housekeepers from the Philippines and Indonesia, most of whom violated their visas to ditch the agency fees (but that’s another story entirely). Nobody else seemed to make this mistake anything other than intentionally.
Save for, of course, yours truly.
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