Once you’ve landed in Taiwan and found a job, you will be required to get your alien resident and health insurance cards. The application process for these requires a simple health exam, emphasis on the word SIMPLE. I completely botched my eye exam, came clean about my thyroid problem and still passed. Plus, it only takes about thirty minutes from start to finish, which is amazing since it includes an eye exam, blood test and x-ray. You’d be waiting around an American hospital for three to four hours to get all that done.
When you arrive at the hospital, do not get in line where everyone else waiting at the big reception area. Instead, head to the door marked for ARC applicants, which is located directly opposite the reception windows and behind the chairs. Once inside the door, you will be given a form to complete and asked to present your passport, pictures and current ARC (if you have one). Don’t worry about the form, there are attendants hovering nearby to help both guide and rush you along.
As for the pictures, they need to be passport photos and you have to have two of them. Either have the pictures made ahead of time or make them from a photo booth at the hospital. I used the photo booth and it was cheap and effective, costing only about $150 NTD for two photos. You should have the photos with you before you step into the ARC applicants’ reception area. If you need to use the photo booth at the hospital, it’s right as you come in the main doors on the first floor, behind the escalator. Just look around, you can’t miss it.
After your form has been completed, you will be given a number and asked to wait to enter the thirty minute rat race that is your health exam. I’ve never waited longer than 20 minutes and the numbers are displayed on an electronic sign above the doctor’s door, so not knowing Chinese is not a problem. (This is an office for immigrants after all.) Once your number is called, step into the tiny room, have a brief chat with the doctor, tell him (or her) all about any health problems and leave. From the doctor’s office, go directly to have your weight, height, blood pressure and eyes checked. This all takes about five minutes. Then the fun starts and you will be directed to the second floor for your blood test and x-ray.
Take the escalator up to the second floor and hook a left. Alternatively, you can just show the nice man at the top of the escalator your paperwork and he’ll escort you the five feet it takes to get to the lab. The lab is a big round circular desk upon which patients present their arms to nurses who are eagerly waiting with their needles at ready. Once you find it, draw a number, take a seat and wait to see which lucky lady gets to poke a hole in your arm. This process may take five to ten minutes, depending on the wait.
After it’s over and you’ve been given your ration of cotton and tape, make your way to “no man’s land,” also known as the radiology department. It’s still on the second floor, just down the hallway and over a bridge. Really, it is over a bridge, but don't worry, it’s also really easy to find. Just go back toward the escalator and look for the signs. These will take you straight there. Alternatively, you can just look helplessly at the man guarding the elevator again.
At the radiology department, get in line and present your paperwork to the reception desk. From there, you will be instructed by smirking office staff to take off your bra. Around the corner from the reception desk, there are two or three closets that have been converted to changing rooms for this purpose. Ditch your clothes and belongings in one of the plastic baskets they helpfully keep lying around and proudly step into the completely unflattering bag dress that is waiting for you inside the closet. Keep in mind, you only have about 60 seconds to get this all done. Hope you wore flip flops. The x-ray itself is quick and painless. When you’re done and redressed, simply retrace your steps back to the ARC application office, hand in your paperwork and go home. You’re done!
Health checks for ARC applications are conducted at the Renai Hospital, which is located at the intersection of Da’an and Renai Road. The closest MRT station is Zhongxiao Fuxing, which is where the blue line meets brown. From the MRT station, take the exit for Da’an Road and follow the sidewalk until you run into it. Make a right and follow Da’an road until you see the hospital. It’s a short walk that takes a total of ten to fifteen minutes from the MRT station. It’s, also, a really cool area with lots of nice clothing boutiques and a “Hello Kitty” café. Allow some time for exploring once your health check is finished.
Along with your passport and photos, you will also need to bring money. While the health check is relatively cheap, it isn’t free. For first-timers, it costs around $2,000 NTD or $60 USD. If you just need to renew an existing ARC for a current employer, it only costs about half that. Also, be warned, the hospital, like other government offices in Taiwan, closes down between 12:00 and 13:30 for a mid-day siesta. The ARC application office, also, closes rather early, shutting its doors at 17:00. In short, you must have your health check done between the hours of 9 and 12 or between 13:30 and 17:00. Additionally, the office is closed on Sundays and national holidays. Honestly, I recommend going sometime during the week if possible to avoid crowds.