Monday October 26, 2020

This was initially going to be part of a longer post, but I think stands better on its own: I’m moving to Taiwan.

The TLDR version of “Why Taiwan?” is that they did a good job of dealing with COVID-19Taiwan has had ~550 COVID-19 cases with a population of ~23 million people, which is a rate ~11,000 times less than in the United States, and they haven’t had a death due to COVID-19 since May. The United States has more people die from COVID-19 almost every day than the number of people who have gotten infected in Taiwan ever., have a democracy that essentially works, have national health care, and have an immigration process that makes it easy for me to get residency. The cost of living in Taipei is also notably lower than NYC or San Francisco, making it more attractive to move there on my savings.

I looked into moving to South Korea or Taiwan fairly early in the pandemic, but by the time I was seriously considering it, travel was closed off to most Americans. It wasn’t until Kevin Lynagh let me know that I actually was eligible for a Taiwan Gold CardIf you’re interested in going to Taiwan on a Gold Card, check out my post on how to apply for one. that serves as a 3-year residency permit, re-entry permit, and open work permit that I started seriously looking into it again. As Kevin writes:

You are more likely to get COVID now than you were back in March when everyone was flipping out. You won’t make the news anymore, but it will still be very bad for you and your family!

At $282 USD to apply for a Gold Card, it seemed like relatively low-cost insurance to have a backup country as the United States slid further and further into being a fascist dystopia. But as I applied, I started to consider Taiwan on its own merits, and it became more and more appealing: a functioning government, national healthcare, a relatively free and open society, big cities with easy access to beautiful nature, good public transit, cheap and delicious street food, low cost of living… What was I doing staying in the United States, hoping that instead of reelecting a fascist, we’d elect the guy who would veto medicare-for-all if it came across his desk, when I could be living somewhere with far fewer problems right now?I don’t mean to imply here that Taiwan is perfect, politically — it definitely isn’t. But Taiwan, despite being generally quite capitalist, already has socialized healthcare, has made significant commitments to renewable energy and reducing CO₂ emissions, and was the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

The main downside is that Taiwan is under near-constant threat of attack from its authoritarian neighbour. A significant risk, but one that I’m willing to take — at least violence in Taiwan is so far only threatened, while in the US we have police and federal troops actively tear-gassing and beating people in the streets.

The final reason to pick Taiwan is simply availability: borders are closed, so my American passport isn’t helping me much, and I don’t have a college degree, which makes emigrating significantly harder.I was aware of this risk when I decided not to get a degree, and it was the primary reservation I had about skipping college. The consolation I have here is that through sheer dumb luck, I’d actually be in an even worse position now if I had gone to college, since I wouldn’t have a degree right now and I wouldn’t be eligible for a Gold Card. Taiwan, though, makes it extremely easy to immigrate if you’ve made more than ~$67k USD/yearThe actual value is $160,000 NTD/month, which comes out to ~$67,060 USD/year at the current exchange rate. at any point in the last 3 years. I submitted my W-2, a picture of my passport, and a photo of myself, and 2 months later I had a residency certificate.And a solid month of that process was just due to me typoing the expiration date of my passport on the form, most people get their Gold Card in less than a month.

This is what it should be like everywhere. There’s a sad irony to my friends struggling for years to get to and stay in the US, while I fill out an online form and wait a few months to leave. I don’t take it for granted that I’m able to do this, but immigrating so easily has shown me personally the absurdity of the pain inflicted by borders, as well as the privilege I have in being able to travel relatively easily.

So, I’m moving to Taiwan. I’m flying to Taipei on November 23rd. If you’re in San Francisco, let’s take one last walk together before then, and if you’re in Taipei, let’s chat once I’m done with my quarantine! For the first time in a while, I’m excited about what the future holds.