|Citizens of Afghanistan, Guinea, Israel, Iraq, North Korea, Cameroon, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia must obtain approval from the Indonesian authorities before a visa is issued. Allow up to 3 months for the process.|
Dealing with Imigrasi serves as a useful introduction to the byzantine complexities of Indonesian bureaucracy. Long story short: most western travellers can get a visa on arrival for USD35 at virtually all common entry points (Java, Bali, etc.). So read on only if you suspect you don’t fit that description.
There are three ways to enter Indonesia:
- Visa exemption. Show your passport, get a stamp, that’s it. Only applies to a few selected, mainly ASEAN countries.
- Visa on arrival. Pay on arrival, get a visa put in your passport and stamped. Most visitors fall into this category.
- Visa in advance. Obtain a visa from an Indonesian embassy before arrival.
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months and contain at least one or more blank pages. This rule also applies to any visa extension that may be applied for during your stay in the country.
A special feature is that visa-free and visa-required visitors must enter Indonesia via certain ports of entry. A visa is required for entry via other ports of entry, regardless of whether you enter visa-free or visa-required.
It should also be noted that the days a visa holder is in Indonesia are counted as day 1 from the day of entry, not day 0. This means that at 24:00 (noon) on the night of the day of entry, you have already spent one day in Indonesia. If you enter at 23:59 (11.59pm), then 2 minutes later you have already been in Indonesia for 1 day and are on day 2. If you get a 30-day visa on 1 January, you must leave the country no later than 30 January. If you get an extension, the day your original/previous visa expires is not counted as the first day of your extension, so an extension in the example above starts on 31 January.
A fine of Rp 200,000/day of overstay is levied for departures after the last day. Long-term overstays are frowned upon and, if caught, can lead to detention in immigration jail as well as a fine and deportation. This should not be considered as an alternative to a visa extension.
Customs in Indonesia are usually quite relaxed. You are allowed to bring in 1 litre of alcohol, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 g of tobacco products and a reasonable amount of perfume. Amounts of money carried in excess of 100 million rupiah or the equivalent in other currencies must be declared on entry and exit. In addition to the obvious drugs and weapons, the importation of pornography and fruits, plants, meat or fish is also (technically) prohibited. Indonesia imposes the death penalty on those caught importing drugs.
The Indonesian Immigration Department maintains its own poorly organised website with almost incomprehensible language in the English version. The website of the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore (KBRI Singapore) provides more understandable and useful information on customs and immigration requirements.
Visa for Indonesia
For more information, including a list of countries and entry points eligible for visa-free entry, see the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism’s Visa and Immigration Guidelines.
Citizens from 169 countries entering for leisure, business, transit or mission purposes are allowed to stay in Indonesia for up to 30 days without a visa. This type of visa cannot be extended, transferred or converted into another type of visa, nor can it be used as a work permit. Those visitors who fall under the Visa Waiver Programme will be issued a visa at Indonesian border checkpoints, at the discretion of the visa officer. Entry for citizens of these countries is granted at most major airports, seaports and land crossings.
Visitors who decide to stay longer than 30 days can additionally apply for a visa on arrival (same guidelines as below) or apply at an Indonesian embassy before departure.
Visa on arrival
Visas-on-Arrival can be issued to a resident of one of 69 countries, including the USA & Canada, Australia & New Zealand and most EU countries. Visas-on-Arrivals are issued for 30 days only for $35 and can be extended once for another 30 days at a local immigration office or visa agent within Indonesia. If you are in Bali, you cannot usually apply for the extension in Bandung. A 7-day visa on arrival at seaports on the islands of Bintan and Batam will still be issued for $15.
All visitors entering Indonesia on a visa on arrival (Visa Kunjungan Saat Kedatangan) must have a return ticket to their place of origin or an onward ticket with them when they pass through immigration (e-tickets are acceptable), or they must be able to show an immigration officer sufficient proof of the means to obtain such a ticket. This is often checked and visitors who cannot meet this requirement may be refused entry. Usually the problem can be solved with a suitable “payment” (or bribe). Transit visas are available from Indonesian embassies and consulates and may be issued at the border in certain (limited) circumstances. Often airlines carrying passengers to Indonesia will refuse a departure to an Indonesian point of entry at check-in if this proof cannot be provided.
Applying for a visa at an Indonesian embassy or consulate in advance of travel is also possible and allows you to go directly to the visa holder immigration channel rather than the sometimes congested VOA and visa waiver channels at immigration checkpoints. Pre-issued visas for tourist, social and business visits are normally issued for a period of up to 60 days visit duration. VOAs are not valid for employment of any kind, no matter what your employer tells you and even if your work papers are in process, unless the Ministry of Labour issues a special temporary work permit in the form of a letter to fill the time gap.
Visas-on-arrival are issued at most major airports and seaports, as well as at the Indonesian-Malaysian border crossing at Entikong.
Visa on arrival fees: A visa on arrival is issued for a stay of up to 30 days and costs USD 35, although immigration officials are happy to charge Rp 350,000. Exact change in US dollars is recommended for VOA payments at the Indonesian border. Usually, the VOA is renewable once for another 30 days. If your VOA says it is non-renewable, it is probably one from the old stock of VOAs and this notice should be ignored. If in doubt, ask. An extension can be applied for at an immigration office in Indonesia for an officially published fee of Rp 250,000 and it is recommended to do so ten days before the visa expires, although it can be submitted later. Processing time is usually a few days, but depends on how busy they are and whether or not the official in charge is present. A selection of other major currencies, including rupiah, are accepted and change is usually given in rupiah, often at a poor exchange rate. Credit cards may be accepted in Bali, but don’t rely on this service being available there – it is not usually available elsewhere. Note that some entry points, especially at land or sea entry points, issue non-renewable VOAs (ports in the Riau archipelago are notable examples).
How to get a visa on arrival
At the above airports/seaports, the following procedure should be followed to obtain your VoA (Visa on Arrival).
- If possible, fill in the Arrival/Departure Card before your arrival, which you can sometimes request from a member of the crew serving you. This card will be your visa application.
- When you arrive, go to the bank counter and pay the required amount for your visa. A receipt with a barcode will be issued.
- Bring the receipt along with your arrival/departure card and passport to the Visa on Arrival counter and it will be recorded by the officer. A visa sticker will be issued and affixed to your passport. The official may ask you some questions, which is normal.
- Go to the immigration counter to have your passport stamped or, if an official has stamped it, you can walk along the special cordoned-off lane to skip the counter.
As always, there may be deviations from this arrangement, especially at the smaller entry points. Bank and visa counters may be arranged together. In any case, you must apply for your visa before reaching the entry counter.
Visa before arrival
Nationals of countries not listed above must apply for a visa at the nearest Indonesian embassy or consulate. Single-entry visas are valid for 60 days and are fairly routine, though expensive at USD 50-100 depending on the country and current exchange rate. Multiple entry visas are also available, but as issuing policies vary at different embassies and change occasionally, it is best to check with your country’s Indonesian embassy well in advance of departure. Usually Indonesian embassies and consulates give 3-4 clear working days for processing; however, it may take at least a week.
Citizens of these countries must obtain a permit from the Immigration Headquarters, Directorate Jenderal Imigrasi in Jakarta: Afghanistan, Israel, Albania, North Korea, Angola, Nigeria, Pakistan, Cameroon, Somalia, Cuba, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Tonga, Iraq. The persons concerned must have a sponsor in Indonesia, either personal or a company. The sponsor must go in person to the Immigration Head Office in South Jakarta (Jakarta Selatan) and provide a photocopy of the applicant’s passport, a supporting letter and a photograph of the applicant. If the application is approved, the Immigration Head Office will send a copy of the approval letter to the applicant.
For people arriving in Indonesia, there are several types of visas of the pre-approved variety, which include, for example, business, social-cultural, student, work and tourist. Of these, a business visa only allows work that is not paid (such as sales visits to clients), and the work visa is the only one that allows full employment and is valid for 1 or 5 years, combined with a work permit from the Ministry of Labour. Most other types of visas do not allow any kind of work, not even voluntary work, although there are some exceptions, such as religious and diplomatic visas. If you are unsure, ask the local Department of Manpower and Transmigration (DisNaKerTrans), NOT your employer, the agent processing your paperwork, or the Immigration Department, as many employers and agents do not know the law or are willing to lie about it to get you to work, and the Immigration Department has no authority over employment. As in most countries, students are not allowed to work.
If there is a delay in processing your paperwork (e.g.: because the company does not yet have an operating licence or has not yet submitted the relevant documents and applications to the government to employ foreigners), your employer can apply to the Ministry of Manpower for a temporary work permit as a stop-gap measure, you should also have a photocopy of this letter.