A New Numbering System for ARCs

Photo: Wikipedia

The numbering system used on foreign nationals’ alien resident certificates (ARCs) changed in January to match that of Taiwanese citizens’ IDs, removing a longstanding hindrance to carrying out everyday activities such as online banking, ticket booking, and registration for medical appointments.

Before the change was made, whether an ARC number could be entered successfully online depended on the particular organization’s IT system. That piecemeal approach meant that a foreign national in Taiwan might be able to sign up for online banking at certain banks but not others, or to register online for appointments only at certain hospitals.

The National Immigration Agency (NIA) changed the numbering format for foreign nationals from a code of two English letters followed by eight digits to a new code of one English letter followed by nine digits, which is identical to the structure used for citizens’ ID card numbers.

The NIA explains that under the new system, the English letter is the area code, indicating the place of application and corresponding to the area code in citizens’ ID card numbers. The first digit indicates gender – 8 for male and 9 for female. The last digit is the checksum, used to verify data integrity.

While the NIA began issuing ARCs with the new numbering system on January 2, there will be a 10-year grace period during which ARCs with the previous system remain valid. 

“A simultaneous replacement mechanism” will undergird the transition from the old to new numbering system, the NIA said in a statement. When a foreign national applies for extension, reissuance, or replacement of his/her resident certificate, the NIA will issue a new number to the applicant. The foreign national will pay the standard application fee, with no additional charge for the change.

Permanent ARC holders should simply apply with the NIA to change their number before the grace period expires on January 1, 2031.

The new numbering system does not require foreign nationals to make changes to other forms of identification, such as NHI cards, driver licenses, or bank accounts.

“If the government is trying to promote Taiwan [as being hospitable to foreign residents], it needs to resolve these little issues that make life more difficult for foreigners living here,” says Timothy Berge, general manager of International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT) and co-chair of the European Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan’s Better Living Committee, which had long advocated the change.