New Indonesian visa rules set to cause expat chaos

Published:  16 Nov at 6 PM
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Tagged: Visas, Immigration
In a sudden reversal of the immigration status quo in Indonesia, expats applying for visas must now accompany agents to immigration offices.

Formerly, foreigners wishing to get visas or stay permits could use agents to submit the required paperwork on their behalf. Since November 14, applicants will now be required to attend immigration offices along with their agents before visa and stay permits can be issued.

The news broke officially after several days of rumours about the change, with all agents invited to a meeting last Friday. The change is expected to affect expats, tourists and other short-term visitors as well as companies sponsoring expat workers, and is also expected to be bad news for Indonesians employed in the country’s immigration offices.

All immigration licenses issues to those acting as formalities agents have now been cancelled, and all applications must now be submitted either by sponsoring company staff or by individual foreigners wishing to enter the country. All urgent requests and fast-track options will now be denied, and all applications will be dealt with on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

Waiting times for visas are now expected to be unpredictable, as are the number of times a sponsor or expat will need to attend an immigration office. Average handling times for visa applications is expected to increase significantly, and numbers of visits to immigration offices before a visa is issued will also increase to as many as seven.

It’s not yet known how companies applying for expat work visas will handle the unwelcome changes, nor the added information necessary to get a visa. A daily practice chart gives some idea, starting with submitting the application for checking, returning to deal with minor issues, returning again for progress information, returning again for address verification, again for dues payment, again for a bio data session and again to pick up the visa.

Given the increasing popularity of Indonesia as an expat and retiree destination, it’s hard to imagine the chaos the changes may well bring on. Foreigners already living in the country are seeing the new rules as an indication that they may no longer be welcome.
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