At long last Indonesia improves its often criticised visa on arrival system.
At long last (and almost three years after VP Jusuf Kalla first announced it), it seems that Indonesia's Immigration Department has listened to the complaints of international tourists regarding the visa on arrival scheme.
Many complaints centred on its short duration (maximum 30 days) - which made travel to more remote parts of the archipelago virtually impossible. Some tourists also suggested very long queues at airports to buy them was not exactly the most positive or welcoming first impression of Indonesia, particularly after a long flight.
Improvement #1: Visas On Arrival Up To 60 Days
As reported in The Jakarta Post, starting 26 January 2010 tourists can now have their $US25 30-day tourist visas extended by another 30 days.
However, the details are not yet forthcoming from the Department of Immigration about where/how this could be done, nor how much it would cost. It suggests tourists - like their expat brethren - may need to use an immigration agent/fixer/broker to make it happen in a reasonable period of time.
Vale or Good Riddance?
The $10 7-day visa on arrival
It was also announced that the $US10 7-day visa would no longer be offered.
Improvement #2: Save Time, Buy Your Visa On The Plane
The same newspaper has also reported that Indonesia's national airline Garuda Indonesia also recently introduced a new visa service at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan. It allows visitors to avoid long queues at the airport's visa counters and buy their visas on arrival before they arrive, i.e. before they board the plane.
The much shorter Visa On Arrival queue at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan
It is not known whether this service will also be rolled out to airports in the 63 other countries eligible for VOAs, or to other airlines flying to Indonesia.
Indonesia's Tourism Minister Jero Wacik,
happier before he visited Ngurah Rai Airport, Bali
However, as Tourism Minister Mr Jero Wacik recently discovered on an impromptu visit to the international terminal at Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport, it would probably be a good idea.
What I wonder is:
UPDATE: July 2011
Garuda is now advertising its expedited immigration procedures - called "Immigration on Board" - here. You could call it instead "visa before arrival", as that is a better description of what happens: tourists pay for their visa on arrival before they board the flight, then get the visa placed in their passport on the plane. They can then bypass the visa on arrival queue and head straight to the
long immigration queue.