VISA RULES – Covid restrictions eased for holiday visitors to Indonesia

Passengers arriving in Bali international airport

Two Visa options aimed at bringing back tourists

As of October 2022, it’s relatively easy for holiday travelers to visit Indonesia, provided you are vaccinated against COVID-19 and intend to stay for no more than 30 days.

There is also a not-so-easy modified Visa option if you want to stay longer (up to 6 months) for tourists and other categories of travelers, including online ‘bloggers’ and video creators.

But if you are travelling with Better Tours Indonesia, you don’t have to worry – we will walk you through the documentation required for the appropriate Visa and handle the process for you.

You can visit without a prior negative PCR or rapid antigen test so long as you can show you are fully vaccinated (at least two COVID shots with an approved vaccine). 

You also are no longer required to have COVID-19 insurance.

And yes, you can visit if unvaccinated or partially vaccinated subject to conditions, but it is more difficult – you can read more about these rules below.

30-day tourist Visa-on-Arrival the main option for Indonesian holiday

The Visitor Visa on Arrival, originally introduced in May 2022 for holidaymakers, costs IDR500,000 (about AUD$50) for a visit of 30 days (29 nights).

But from September the previous option to extend this visa for a further 30 days has been abolished.

The Visa-on-Arrival is available to citizens of 86 countries with fee exemptions for citizens of nine ASEAN nations.

All you need is your passport with validity for at least six months, a return or onwards ticket to another country, and digital or written proof of your COVID vaccinations.

You will probably receive a sticker like this when you purchase your Visa-on-Arrival. It covers about a third of a page in your passport.

You also are required to download the Indonesian mobile tracing app PeduliLindungi to your smartphone (the App is available from Google Play, App Store, or App Gallery). You also must register your Covid-19 vaccine certificate at https://vaksinln.dto.kemkes.go.id/sign/in.

Your verified certificate will appear on your PeduliLindungi app, giving you access to indoor public places in Indonesia. 

Don’t be put off by these requirements – they are not at all as complex as they may at first seem. Downloading the App and registering (all in English) is a breeze.

(Note – during almost six months from my return to Indonesia from May 2022, including visits to Government offices, I was only twice asked to show my digital vaccination certificate.)

 You can purchase a Visa-on-Arrival from Immigration arrival areas at 15 major airports, 35 seaports and 7 land border crossings.

Stickers for Indonesian Visa-on-Arrival

Single Entry Visa for longer stays in Indonesia

Should you wish to stay longer than 30 days you must apply for a Single-Entry Visa with categories providing for Tourists, Family reunion, Social and Sport visitors, business visitors, and journalists and filmmakers.

These Visas (211A – 211B – 211C) permit stays of 60 to 180 days at a cost ranging IDR1,500,000 to IDR6,000,000 (AUD$150 to $600), depending on category and duration.

Additional requirements include an Indonesian sponsor (corporate or individual) for most categories other than Tourist, proof of funds of at least US$2000 or equivalent, and a guarantee of funds if undertaking pre-investment activities.

Furthermore, your application for a Single Entry Visa, including as a Tourist, must be lodged online.

The online process is complicated and difficult

With all our sophisticated skills on smartphones and laptops, an online lodgment sounds like a piece of cake, right?

But having explored this option, I can only wish you the best of luck. You will probably need an English-Indonesian dictionary and plenty of time – lots of time.

A history of on-going complications in Indonesia’s Visa regulations has spawned an industry of ‘consultants’ and ‘agents’ who will magically help you through the application process – for a fee of course.

But they have become a necessity to obtain anything other than a simple 30-day Visa-on-arrival. Going it alone for a do-it-yourself Single Entry Visa will put your sanity at risk.

You will find plenty of Jakarta and Bali-based immigration consultants littering the Internet. Just Google ‘consultant single-entry visa Indonesia’.

Many of their sites offer good information, and not just about Visas. But you may be forgiven for wondering about the nature of their relationship with Immigration authoritie

The days of super easy entry in Indonesia seem to have ended

For a brief three years from 2016 Indonesia ranked as one the easier countries in the world for tourists to visit. Then COVID-19 arrived in early 2020.

As at the end of 2019, nationals from 169 countries needed only to present their passport at the Immigration Arrivals Desk to be issued a special FREE ‘Short Stay Visa Free Facility’ which entitled them to a stay of 30 days (29 nights).

Anyone wanting to stay longer, could purchase a Visa-on-arrival for US$35 which could be extended to 60 days for payment of a second US$35 fee.

Then, from March 2020, the Pandemic effectively closed Indonesia’s borders to holiday visitors for almost two years.

The restrictions progressively eased from November 2021 but with a series of confusing changes. Under the latest changes in October 2022, they continue to be confusing and difficult for anything other than a short holiday.

Instead of reverting to the FREE pre-2020 process with appropriate added health protections, Immigration Authorities have resorted to the complicated set of paid Visa arrangements described above.

Many potential tourists will likely decide it’s not worth the bother and go to an alternative Southeast Asian destination with easier entry rules.

The tragedy is that the confusion created by the latest changes will continue to frustrate hopes of an early recovery within the Indonesian tourism industry after the disaster of the first two years of COVID.

A clash of cultures – Indonesian Immigration Agency versus Tourism and Investment

It is as though xenophobes within Indonesia’s Immigration establishment are working to make it difficult for foreign tourist and business visitors at the same time as Government Tourism and Foreign Investment agencies are trying to encourage arrivals.

This has not gone unnoticed.  in September 2022 President Joko Widodo called for a complete shake up of Indonesia’s Immigration Department and expressed shame and anger at the level of complaints about present services.

Hotels, tour operators, restaurants, airlines, and everyone associated with Indonesian tourism, right down to drivers and local guides, has been cruelly impacted by the pandemic border restrictions, especially in major destinations like Bali.

Empty street scene in Bali at height of Pandemic

A bleak scene of shuttered shops and empty street at the height of the Pandemic in normally bustling Bali – Pic Daily Mail online

International visitor numbers crashed from a high of more than 16 million in 2019 to an expectation of between 1.8 and 3.6 million for 2022, according to the tourism minister.

Arrivals to the end of September suggest the end of year figure – helped by the G20 conference in Bali in November 2022 – will be near the higher estimate..

Lower arrivals numbers a benefit for visitors who come to Indonesia sooner

Even if current arrivals of more than 500,000 visitors a month are maintained through 2023, the total of international visitors holidaying in Indonesia will still be around 40% of the 2016 total.

Not good news for the Indonesian tourism sector.

But, paradoxically, good for those visitors who do choose to come – tourism services will be competing for a share of a diminished market, and that will mean bargains.

It will also mean less crowded attractions and destinations.

The rehash of Visa arrangements during September and an update on 19 October 2022 appears to be a reaction to President Widodo’s call for reforms.

If so, what it has produced shows that Immigration authorities are carrying too much long-held cultural baggage to get what their President was recognizing.

The struggle for a genuine ‘Digital Nomads Visa’ for creators visiting Indonesia

Prior to the recent announcements there had been talk by Tourism officials of a proposed new Visa category for Digital Nomads’ – people (usually young) travelling the world and creating blogs, videos, and online social media content to make a living or supplement other income.

The conversation was a belated recognition of the growing numbers and the promotional value of these influencers to the Indonesian tourism industry.

These content creators usually arrive pre-disposed towards writing or filming favorable reports on destinations like Bali, Lombok, Lake Toba, andthe beautiful islands of Raja Ampat. Their videos and blogs attract hundrteds of thousands of views.

But following the September-October Visas rehash the Digital Nomads choosing other than a 30-day Tourist Visa-on-arrival will be up for AUD$100 a month for a Single-entry Visa (B 211C), required to have a sponsor, and be able demonstrate a bank balance of US$2,000 for the privilege of promoting Indonesia.

They are not permitted to undertake gainful employment within Indonesia. However, they will not be required to pay tax in Indonesia on their earnings from overseas.

There are successful travel bloggers and vloggers (video bloggers) who will find this Visa category acceptable.

But there will be many who won’t – they will turn to countries and destinations with fewer conditions and costs.

Indonesia will lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars worth of FREE advertising and promotion.

TIPS FOR AVOIDING VISA HASSLES IN INDONESIA

Remember – Indonesian authorities include the day of your arrival and the day of your departure in your 30 days, so you have only 29 nights.

No working – You cannot undertake any kind of gainful employment within Indonesia if holding a Visa-on-Arrival or a Single-Entry Visa If you are hired by an entity domiciled in Indonesia and will receive payment you need a Work Permit and a related single or multiple entry Work Visa. This provision is STRICTLY enforced. In the past this has been ruled to include voluntary work.

Overseas earnings – Under the current regulations activities which generate income from outside Indonesia are permitted and earnings from them do not attract Indonesian tax.

Arrival questions – On arrival the Immigration desk officers will ask routine questions – (Why are you visiting? – How long are you staying? – Where will you be staying?). They also may ask whether you will be working – make clear you will not be doing so.

Upgrades – Your Visa-on-Arrival CANNOT be extended, and it CANNOT be upgraded to any other type of stay permit. A Single-Entry Visa may be upgraded, but the process, costs and conditions are beyond our scope here.

Overstays – Any overstay is regarded as a serious offence and will attract a penalty of a million Indonesian Rupiah per day – the equivalent of around US$65 (Exchange rate as of November 2022)

Maximum overstay – 60 days is the maximum time for which you may settle your breach by paying the statutory penalty (which means a penalty of close to $US4,000 for a maximum overstay).

Extended Overstay – Should you overstay by more than 60 days Immigration authorities will lock you up, and you may need to go to a hearing where you may receive a prison sentence or an additional fine. After serving any sentence you will be deported to your home country (at your expense) and then be blacklisted, preventing your return to Indonesia for an extended period. (You will not be returned to an intermediate closer country).

Tests and possible quarantine for unvaccinated and those who show symptoms

Woman receiving PCR COVID-19 Test

Your temperature may be checked on arrival – if higher than 37.5C you will be required to undergo a COVID PCR test. – Pic capecodhealth.org

Travelers who have previously contracted COVID-19 are exempt from showing a vaccine certificate if they can show a notice from a doctor/hospital/ministry of health, or a Covid-19 recovery certificate from their departure country (in English) confirming that the traveler is no longer transmitting Covid-19.

If you are exhibiting symptoms your temperature will be checked on arrival in Indonesia and if you have a fever (above 37.5 Degrees C) you must undergo a PCR test. You are required to quarantine at nominated hotel or accommodation (at your expense) to await the test result.

If the test is negative, you will be allowed to continue your travel but may be required to be vaccinated. If the test is positive you will need to quarantine for five days (with a further PCR test at four days) or be treated in hospital. Quarantine and Isolation costs are at your expense.

If you have not been vaccinated or have had only one dose of vaccine you will be required to quarantine and to undergo PCR tests on arrival and on Day 4.

Unvaccinated foreign travelers may transit through Indonesian airports so long as they do not leave the airport area.

INFORMATION ABOUT OTHER VISA CATEGORIES

This article has looked at Visa regulations only from the point of view of visiting travelers. There are other categories of Visa for people wishing to work in Indonesia, establish businesses, stay long-term with spouses, or retire to Indonesia.

A starting point for checking requirements under some of these categories is a memorandum issued to Indonesian embassies by Immigration Authorities on 19 October 2022.

You might also check the official Immigration Department website and/or the websites of Immigration consultants listed on the Internet. Keep in mind that there have been many and rapid changes in regulations over 2022 and content on some websites may be outdated.

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Douglas Cole

Doug is a former journalist and broadcaster who lived and travelled in Indonesia and Southeast Asia from 2002 to 2018. He returned to Indonesia in mid-2022 after being stranded in Australia by COVID border closures. He is completing a book under the working title ‘INDONESIA – Safely, Easily, and in Comfort.’

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