Life & Art

Retiring in Asia

25 June, 2024

Many foreigners would consider retiring in Taiwan but, compared to other Asian countries, barriers exist.

By Paul Shelton


As many residents can attest, Taiwan is an attractive place to live due to its island setting and metropolitan feel. This island nation is known for having the highest concentration of mountains globally, and the food in Taiwan has a well deserved global reputation. Bubble milk tea has become an international delight.


Foreigners currently have a range of options for living and working in Taiwan, such as the ARC, APRC, JFRV, or Gold Card. But what about retirees (whether fully retired or those who have reached retirement age in their own country but still wish to work for a few more years, such as digital nomads)? Some may wish to retire here because they have worked here in the past, have favorable memories, and think it is a good choice as opposed to their own countries. Maybe they have calculated their existing finances and believe their retirement funds will stretch further in Taiwan.


Whilst, to those of us already in Taiwan, it does seem that the cost of living is increasing, analysts suggest that consumer prices in Taiwan are lower than in Europe and as much as 26.55% lower than in the US. Renting in Taiwan is still significantly cheaper than in the US and many other major global cities. For example, renting a city-center one-bedroom apartment in the US costs an average of US$1,678 per month. In Taiwan, the same apartment costs about US$441 per month. However, it should be noted that purchasing an apartment in Taipei City is significantly more expensive than the average city in the US and elsewhere.


However, simply put, Taiwan does not offer a retirement visa like some other southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia (as we will discuss in greater detail below). That being said, foreigners who want to settle in Taiwan long term can apply for one of several non-retirement visas.


If you want to do a series of mini retirements in Taiwan, you can get a tourism visa for 90 days at a time. You can then exit the country and re-enter later to receive another 90-day visa. But this “visa run” approach is tiresome and eventually may gain the attention of immigration authorities, who may not understand the retirement urge. Also, it may be difficult to rent an apartment when on a 90-day visa.


If you want to stay for longer, there are foreign investor visas and business visas that retirees can apply for. To do this, you must either invest a set amount in the country or work for a Taiwan-based company. Both of these options may be unpalatable to retirees.


Taiwan’s national health insurance (NHI) system may also be an attraction to foreign retirees. Legal residents are eligible for the NHI program. NHI includes coverage for inpatient and outpatient care, prescription drugs, dental care (excluding orthodontics and prosthodontics), and more.


Taiwan doesn’t offer free healthcare for expats, and retirees would need to purchase private Taiwan expat healthcare insurance. That said, private healthcare in Taiwan would still be less expensive than in the US for private insurance. Medicine is also typically less expensive in Taiwan than in the US.


If retirees earn an income in Taiwan, they are required to pay taxes. This is important to remember if the retiree is in Taiwan on a business residency visa. Taiwan tax rates vary between 5% and 40% based on the level of earnings.   


Taiwan is generally regarded as a safe country, and Taipei is consistently ranked as one of the safest cities in the world. There is very little violent crime in Taiwan. 


Many would still argue that Taiwan is an excellent place to retire. It has beautiful beaches, mountains, cities and towns. Healthcare is excellent, and public safety is rarely a problem. The most challenging part about retiring in Taiwan is the current visa system, and retirees need stability, not visa runs and difficulties in securing housing.



If, as a retiree, you picture Thailand as your ultimate retirement destination, then a five-year retirement visa in Thailand is a possible choice. This visa offers you a life of relaxation in Thailand for up to five years with the option to renew once for a total stay of 10 years.


This particular visa is also known as a Non-Immigrant O-X Visa, which is a multiple-entry visa renewable inside Thailand, enabling you to leave the country and return without needing a re-entry permit.


Naturally, certain eligibility requirements need to be met:

  • You will have to be at least 50 years old on the date of application.
  • You will need to meet one of two of the following financial requirements: A deposit of THB3 million (or the international equivalent) in your bank account (approximately NT$2.7 million) or a deposit of THB1.8 million (NT$1.6 million) in your bank account alongside an annual income of THB1.2 million (NT$1.1 million) (or the international equivalent).
  • You will need to acquire health insurance.
  • You will need to undergo a criminal record check and provide a police clearance report.
  • You will need to provide proof you don’t display any of the following diseases: drug addiction, elephantiasis, leprosy, syphilis (3rd stage), or tuberculosis.


Only the following nationalities are eligible:

  • Asia: Japan
  • Europe: Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK
  • North America: Canada, USA
  • Oceania: Australia.

Even after you’ve acquired your visa, to keep it valid, there are conditions that must be met:

  • You have to report to immigration every 90 days.
  • You can only renew the five-year visa once up to 10 years in total.
  • You will need to maintain the sum of money noted above in your Thai bank account or maintain THB1.2 million in income. During the second year of your visa, you can reduce the amount in your bank account to THB1.5 million.
  • You must report to immigration every year to provide an update on your qualifications and an assessment of your supporting documents.
  • You cannot work in Thailand (you do have the option to volunteer, but only for any line of work specified by the Department of Employment).



Malaysia has steadily attracted retirees from around the world for a number of years. These retirees are attracted by the beautiful landscapes, warm climate, delicious food, and affordable cost of living in Malaysia. It is said to be a country that is perfect for everyone who enjoys a quiet and relaxing life.

However, to live in Malaysia as a retiree, you will need to apply for a Malaysian retirement visa.

The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme is a government-promoted programme to allow retirees to live in Malaysia for as long as possible on a multiple-entry social visit pass.

To qualify for a retirement visa for Malaysia, you must fulfill the requirements below:

  • You must be at least 35 years of age (young compared with many countries).
  • You must be able to support yourself during your time in Malaysia.
  • If you are under the age of 50, you must have liquid assets worth a minimum of RM500,000 (approximately NT$3.5 million) and an offshore income of at least RM10,000 (NT$69,000) per month.
  • If you are over the age of 50, you must have at least RM350,000 (NT$2.4 million) in liquid assets and an offshore income of at least RM10,000 (again, NT$69,000) per month.
  • You must have a clean criminal record.


Malaysia also permits you to bring your family members with a retirement visa. The family members include:

  • Your legal spouse (although whether this includes same-sex spouses is unclear at present, and this may pose issues for some retirees).
  • Children under the age of 21 (unmarried).


By obtaining a retirement visa on the MM2H program in Malaysia, you get:

  • A ten-year visa. After your visa expires, you can apply to renew it indefinitely.
  • Tax-free income. Any money you transfer into Malaysia will be tax-free. The tax exemption applies to the payment of offshore pension funds into Malaysia and other foreign funds transferred into Malaysia.
  • You can purchase a house, although the house you purchase must be priced over RM1.2 million (NT$7.7 million).
  • You can buy or import a car (although some conditions apply).
  • You can own a business and make an investment. MM2H members are allowed to own their own businesses as directors. You can also invest in local companies, share markets, or unit trusts.
  • You can get a domestic helper (an important issue, especially for ageing retirees). 
  • You have access to education for and all accompanying family members.


To remain eligible, you will need:

  • Ongoing proof you are financially capable of supporting yourself in Malaysia. You have to submit the three last months’ bank statements, proving you have access to at least RM350,000 (if you are over 50 years of age) and RM 500,000 (if you are under the age of 50).
  • Proof that you are a pensioner, such as a pension verification letter (if applicable).
  • Proof of medical insurance for your stay in Malaysia.
  • Letter of good conduct from the relevant authority in your country (e.g. the police).
  • Intention letter for individual/agency representative letter for MM2H company (if applicable).
  • Retirees are also allowed to work with a Malaysia retirement visa. Holders of the retirement visa from the age of 50 and above who have specialized skills in certain approved sectors can work for up to 20 hours per week. However, the decision on whether to approve the part-time job will depend on the approving committee’s view on whether a Malaysian can perform the job or not.
  • The MM2H programme grants retirees a ten-year multiple-entry visa. The visa is automatically renewed after the expiration date at the end of the first ten years.
  • However, having a retirement visa does not entitle you to Permanent Residence in Malaysia, and you cannot convert it to PR status. However, the MM2H visa is issued for ten years, it is renewable and permits you to enter and depart Malaysia as many times as you like without any restrictions.



It is not clear why Taiwan does offer retirement visas to foreigners. It may be because the government has not yet considered the issue or because of concerns that they would impose a burden on government services. Most retirees are willing to pay their share to make their retirement enjoyable and as stress-free as possible. The National Development Council stated in September 2022 that Taiwan would try to attract 400,000 mostly white-collar foreign workers by 2032. Presumably, they will be targeting younger workers. However, retirees often have much to offer in terms of experience and expertise and even restricted work hours may still be attractive to some retirees. It seems the government is missing an opportunity by not trying to tap into that market. Other Asian countries clearly do want foreign retirees and are going out of their way to make their countries more attractive, albeit with some requirements to be met in order to qualify. If, in Taiwan’s case, it is not a question of not wanting retirees, then authorities will need to make retirement in Taiwan not only possible but also attractive.


Paul Shelton is a consultant with 30 years of experience in the international financial services and related industries with skills in all aspects of legal and financial crime compliance and regulatory relationship advisory and management.

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