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Tips

NOTE: This page will not be updated after Aug. 1, 2012. Any of this information might change at any time.

Visa to enter Indonesia

The visa process for a departing Fulbrighter to Indonesia is long and has many parts. Many of the steps are handled by AMINEF in Jakarta. Soon after receiving notice that I had been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant, I received a thick packet of information from them.

Different types of Fulbrighters require different types of visas. This is important. My grant is for teaching only. Researchers must follow different procedures. Also, I am a Senior Scholar, not a student.

Limited Stay Visa: This is the type of visa I needed to get. You must have it before you enter Indonesia. You cannot apply for it until after AMINEF sends you a visa authorization. This will happen quite late in the process, close to your time of departure. It will cost you a bit of money, and depending on where you apply for it (consulate or embassy), the requirements may differ. So make sure you read the rules for the exact place where you will be applying.

This is a single-entry visa, but we have been assured that it is not a problem to obtain multiple exit and re-entry visas once we have arrived and registered in Indonesia. (See Getting the MERP Permit to Leave Indonesia for details.)

Passport pages

You must have at least six blank pages at the back of your U.S. passport to enter Indonesia for this kind of long-term stay. If you have fewer than six blank pages, you’ll have to pay to have pages added. There are also rules about the expiration date of your passport and your intended date of departure from Indonesia. If your passport is due to expire less than 18 months after your departure date, check what the rules are.

Inoculations and medical matters

For any Fulbright award, you’ll need to have a complete medical exam, and your doctor will have to fill in a long form. It is possible that your doctor will take care of your vaccinations and so on, but in the university town where I live, we are advised to go to the county health department office, where there is a Foreign Travel unit staffed by two very well-informed registered nurses. The procedure is this: You make an appointment two months before you leave (for any foreign country), and when you arrive, the nurse has looked up all the CDC information for your destination and advises you on what is required and what is recommended.

Be advised that many of the vaccines are extraordinarily expensive, and your medical insurance (most likely) will not cover them. This is true in particular for the vaccines for rabies and for Japanese encephalitis.

Register with the U.S. State Department

This makes it possible for the U.S. government to send you any warnings or other important information while you are in the foreign country (not only Indonesia). Start here.

Mosquito protection

From past experience in Southeast Asia, I use the following:

There is no vaccine for dengue fever, so it’s a good idea to avoid bites.

A good place to buy mosquito protection is an Army-surplus store. In my experience, the prices will be lower than those at a hiking/backpacking store. The 2-ounce tube of Ultrathon cream should be $6.50 or $7.

Luggage fees

If you travel outside the U.S. a lot, you are probably familiar with the baggage size and weight requirements of various airlines. Be sure to check the rules on the website of EACH airline you will be flying on. Use a luggage scale to ensure that none of your bags exceeds 50 pounds — the fee for overweight is $200 per bag on United, for example.

If you’re not a frequent flyer on that airline, the fees for each bag are progressively higher. A third checked bag on United is $200. Every airline has different fees and rules.

“Left luggage” storage is safe in some airports, such as Changi (Singapore). If you have a very long layover or (like me) you have to leave the airport to go to an embassy and get a visa, this is the way to save yourself from dragging giant suitcases all over town.

If you exit the airport in a country prior to Indonesia, and then return to the airport and pass through immigration again, you will pay all the baggage fees all over again. Because AMINEF required me to get my visa in Singapore (instead of in Washington, as I had planned), I paid double for all my bags. Ouch!

On my return trip, I was very confused about the “excess” fees for luggage because although my trip was fully booked on Delta, the first leg of the trip (from Jakarta to Singapore) was on Singapore Airlines, as Delta has no direct service to Jakarta. Logically the luggage rules for Delta should apply, but from past experience, I knew that I might be subjected to the Singapore Airlines rules instead, because they would be checking me in.

After spending a long, long time on the baggage information pages of both airlines, and trying multiple times to reach Singapore Airlines’ Jakarta airport office by phone (never successfully), I just did not know what to expect. In the end I was lucky, and I was charged a fee of U.S.$117 for each of two bags (only one checked bag is free) plus an additional U.S.$117 for the first bag because it was 69 pounds. The other two were 49 pounds each. But please don’t count on the same fees — they do not match any of the information on either airline’s website, and I think it’s just good luck that I was not charged a lot more.

Polisi (police) and Imigrasi (Immigration)

Foreigners need to register with both of these entities — for me, in Bandung, it required many visits to three separate offices. Then when I finally got an apartment and moved out of the hotel (after six long weeks!), I had to go back to both Imigrasi and the police who deal with orang asing (foreigners) to register my new address. The third office (for me) was a different police building (really far away from the other one); this was the office that after a month gave me my SKLD, a plastic ID card bearing my photo and other details.

You will get the KITAS (Kartu Izin Tinggal Terbatas, or temporary stay permit card) from Imigrasi. This is a kind of certificate, printed on both sides, that will be stapled into your passport. Before Imigrasi can issue the KITAS, they will need a document from the orang asing police (as well as many other documents). Read all about how much fun I had trying to get my KITAS: Some things I have learned about Bandung (start about halfway down in the post).

Technically, your sponsor (the people you work for) is supposed to handle all of this. But they will need your passport (more than once), and many copies of all documents must be produced. It is possible your sponsor is unfamiliar with the system. It is possible your sponsor does not have the manpower to send someone to all the offices multiple times, and there are quite a lot of forms (with all the instructions in Bahasa Indonesia) that must be filled out. (Some fees must be paid. You are responsible for paying the fees. A written receipt will be given for any legitimate fee.) Another possibility is that your sponsor will think there is a lot of time in which to fulfill these requirements, but the initial registrations must be done within seven days (NOT working days, just days) of your arrival in Indonesia.

So just keep asking, asking, asking, and make sure that all the initial registrations are completed and all forms are submitted. Then, if you move to a new address, make sure that it’s done all over again. Remember, BOTH the police AND immigration need a report of your new address from your sponsor. You can’t just go and tell them (that’s what I tried to do).

Multiple Exit / Re-entry Permit, and the Exit Permit

When you have a KITAS — see “Polisi (police) and Imigrasi (Immigration),” above — you can’t just leave and re-enter Indonesia freely. Before you leave the country, if you intend to return, you must apply for and get a special permit that allows you to re-enter the country and keep your same KITAS. See Getting the MERP Permit to Leave Indonesia for details about this.

Even though you have a MERP, you will have to go back to Imigrasi one more time before leaving Indonesia for good. You must return your KITAS to Imigrasi , and you must get another permit, an Exit Permit. Actually it’s called “Exit Permit Only,” or EPO, and it’s a stamp on a page in your passport. To get this, you must take the following to the local Imigrasi office:

  1. Passport, plus photocopies of all relevant pages in your passport (including the KITAS, both sides)
  2. Blue book (Buku Pengawasan Orang Asing), plus photocopies of all relevant pages in that booklet
  3. A new sponsor letter, asking for the “Exit Permit Only” on your behalf, and stating your date of departure from Indonesia
  4. A new pink folder (!)

There was no fee for this process in Bandung. However, when you drop off the stuff, you will have to come back some days later to pick up your passport (with the new shiny stamp inside). In my case, I submitted the stuff on Monday morning and was told to pick it up after 2 p.m. on Thursday the same week. So count on being without your passport for about four days.

My EPO was only valid for seven days. That is, I received it on July 26, and it was set to expire on Aug. 2. You might be able to get one with a longer validity period, but I don’t know.

Returning the SKLD: This card (described below) must be returned to the provincial police office where you originally got it. I went there the day I turned in my KITAS, and the desk person was happy to accept it without seeing my exit permit or anything else — but he declined to give me any kind of receipt or proof that I had returned the SKLD card. When I said I was worried that someone might ask to see it in my remaining few days in Indonesia, he gave it back to me and said in that case I should have someone else return it for me after I have already left.

Procedures at the Jakarta airport

When you are going to leave Indonesia but also come back (see above), you need to fill out a departure card to give to immigration as you are leaving. No one will give you this card unless you specifically ask for it. The only place in the airport to get it is the check-in counter where you get your boarding pass. You would think that when they are issuing your boarding pass for a flight to another country, and holding your U.S. passport in their hands, the airport employees would think to give you the departure card. But no, that will not happen. So don’t forget to ask for it.

After you check in, you can expect to stand in a line for almost an hour to have immigration look at your passport and stamp things for you. Only once (in three departures) did I have less than 30 minutes’ wait, so be warned.

You’ll have plenty of time to fill in the departure card while you’re standing there.

When you get to the immigration counter, the official will take the small part of the departure card and stamp the other part (the arrival card). DO NOT LOSE THAT PART. You will have to show it to immigration when you come back to Indonesia.

When you return to Jakarta, you can walk past all the long lines for foreigners (lines which can take more than an hour) — follow the signs for Indonesian citizens and permanent residents. You will come to a bigger area of immigration counters, and off to the right side, you’ll see a sign for KITAS holders. That line is often nice and short!

If someone wants to see your papers before you get into that line, or while you’re waiting there, it’s okay. Just show them your KITAS, and then they will smile and say something friendly. They won’t believe you have a KITAS unless you show it to them, even if you say, “Saya punya KITAS,” or “Ada KITAS.”

The SKLD card

After you get your KITAS, you must register with the provincial police office within 30 days. They will issue a plastic photo ID card, Surat Keterangan Lapor Diri (SKLD), which you must carry with you at all times. People call it ess-kah-el-di, which sounds like skal-dee. When I got mine, I had to pay Rp 100,000 on the first visit, and then Rp 150,000 when it was picked up. Supposedly there is a Rp 5 million fine if you are caught without it (ouch!).

Before you leave the country for the last time, you must turn in your SKLD at the same National Police office where you obtained it. (See above.)

Summary

The worst parts of all this are: (1) the multiple driving trips to and from these offices, and (2) the need for a fluent speaker of Bahasa Indonesia. In cities such as Jakarta and Bandung, the traffic jams will eat up hours of your time. In more rural places, it will be the distance. You will need to take a fluent speaker with you every time, because usually no one in the immigration office, or in the police office for orang asing, will be able to explain anything in English. NONE of the forms are in English either, so someone will have to help you fill them out. If you are lucky and your sponsor is looking after you properly, he or she will accompany you. If you are not lucky, your sponsor will leave you on your own, and it will be much more difficult.

If you are already fluent in Bahasa Indonesia when you arrive, I’m sure all of this is much easier.

Several of us tried to find an agent whom we could simply pay to take care of all this, but we were not able to find one. I later heard (from my hair stylist) that she paid an agent about U.S.$200 to get her a new residency permit as the spouse of an Indonesian, but the agent took several weeks to complete the process, and being without her passport, the stylist had to cancel a trip to Singapore she had planned. So I guess you need to be wary about using an agent, if you can find one.

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