Tourist Visa Improvements

Feb 2nd, 2010, in Travel, by

VisaAt 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.

Indonesian Airport Immigration Queue
Typically Long Queues At An Indonesian Airport’s Immigration Counter

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.

$10 Visa on Arrival
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.

Narita Visa Queue
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.

Jero Wacik
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:

  1. Do these changes make you more likely, just as likely or less likely to visit Indonesia compared to the old system? Why?
  2. What would you prefer – shorter queues at Indonesia’s airports or free visas? And do you think either of these will happy any day soon?

UPDATE: July 2011

Garuda Immigration on Board

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.

34 Comments on “Tourist Visa Improvements”

  1. Burung Koel says:

    The 7 day visa for 10 bucks is handy – I’ll be disappointed to see it go. Even though companies reimburse things like visa costs, I imagine that a lot of business visits to the Big Durian are shorter than a week. Also, every visit uses up a whole page of the passport, which is wasteful compared to the discreet visa stamps used in places like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines etc

    The queue at Denpasar is one of the most appalling experiences for any tourist or business arrival. The building is a bit shabby and the work stations seem to be understaffed, as noted, but if you can get through visa processing in less than 45 minutes, you’re doing well. If a couple of wide bodies arrive at the same time, it could be over an hour.

    Regarding the ‘Visa on arrival before you arrive’ process used in Japan – surely expanding this to all airports with direct flights into Indonesia would be impractical. There’s no way this would recoup the costs of stationing immigration services overseas, or even if it was contracted out to airlines.

    Doesn’t anyone do cost-benefit analyses these days? Surely there’s enough data around to make decisions based on evidence and experience. Or does it actually have to wait until a Minister walks through the terminal?

  2. Chris says:

    Hi BK,

    Thanks for your comments. I would like to continue the conversation on some of the topics you have raised:

    1. THE $10 7-DAY VISA
    Yes, many business trips would be less than seven days. However, maybe a large proportion of them would be from ASEAN countries, which get 30 days free entry anyway. I never could understand, though, why Chile, Peru and Morocco (as well as Hong Kong and Macau) get free entry too, except maybe as a reciprocal rights thing…

    I think Japan is the first place to get this, because it has B747-400 flights with up to 400 passengers. (Garuda only has 3 B747-400s; the only two go to Saudi Arabia, but is probably mostly Indonesian pilgrims).

    It seems unlikely that Indonesia would do it for airlines other than Garuda. Looking at the list of VOA countries and the Garuda destination list/map knocks the list down to:

    Asia: Seoul, Shanghai, Guangzhou (Canton), Beijing
    Japan :Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka
    South West Pacific : Melbourne, Perth, Sydney
    Middle East : Jeddah, Riyadh

    And if Wikipedia’s Indonesian tourism statistics are to be believed, the biggest non-ASEAN countries for tourism are Australia, Japan and Korea. So maybe it could only feasibly happen in seven cities: Seoul, 3 cities in Japan and 3 cities in Australia.

    However, as I said before, considering the current levels of service in Soekarno-Hatta and Ngurah Rai, it might be a good idea for Mr Wacik to consider it.

  3. madrotter says:

    and now getting rid of this idiot exit tax!!! gotta cough up 2,5 jt if i leave the country with my new kitas.didn’t they say they were getting rid of it in 2012?

  4. David says:

    They’re complaining about the abolition of the ten dollar visa in Bintan, for one, their stats say that in 2009 there were 301,000 foreign entries, 140,000 of them got the one week visa, 17,000 got the one month visa, the rest didn’t need to pay as likely from Singapore and Malaysia.

  5. Ross says:

    Personally, if my brood decies to visit, it’s just for a week, as they all work all the time. Other friends like a stop-over en route to Oz and they too spend a few days, perforce. So the 7 day thing was ideal.
    Haven’t visited The World for a wee while, mad-rotter, but last time, my npwp card seemed to do the trick re the fiscal.
    But watch those sly chicks who pretend to tourists et al that their insurance is part of the departure routine – it ain’t.

  6. lcvs says:

    wow, that’s good news!! i also hope that someday people who are born in indonesia out of indonesian parents but now have a foreign passport for reasons of adoption or other, will eventually receive an indonesian passport if they officially request.. but that is longing for the future i guess.. why is it that the indonesian government doesn’t allow its 18+ citizens to have a double passport? does anyone have an answer to that?

  7. Odinius says:

    I don’t mind paying, but the line is annoying.

  8. Burung Koel says:

    and now getting rid of this idiot exit tax!!! gotta cough up 2,5 jt if i leave the country with my new kitas.didn’t they say they were getting rid of it in 2012?

    Dude, it still sucks, but I can remember paying when it was worth something. Back in 1986 I had to pay the equivalent of around USD 1,000. Luckily I had just sold my motorbike.

    If you’re not a citizen of an ASEAN country, but from the Pacific Rim, it’s possible to get an APEC Business Card, which suits short business visits.

  9. Chris says:

    Hi Madrotter,

    and now getting rid of this idiot exit tax!!! gotta cough up 2,5 jt if i leave the country with my new kitas.didn’t they say they were getting rid of it in 2012?

    Actually, according to this report from The Jakarta Post, the current system stays until the end of 2010. Supposedly, fiskal will disappear in 2011, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

  10. madrotter says:

    last time i went out immigration bandung gave me an exit visa and they made it for the wrong date and i failed to notice so i had to pay an 800.000rp fine. this immigration guy was going on about more money more money so i gave him a 5000rp note and he went bonkers, UANG PERMEN!!! UANG PERMEN!!! hehehe…

    when you got a kitas you also gotta have that card from the police the old buku kuning. those cops would always bitch about money money money. that stopped since i started giving them those chocolate surprise eggs with those little toys inside from holland so now i pay them off for about one and a half dollar… dutch chocolate can work wonders here!

    immigration bandung is easy too, all you have to do is hand out a few packs of cigarettes each time you come, i swear you’re never there longer that 20 minutes, half an hour. meanwhile i see all these bule’s sitting there with their angry, sour “not a cent from me” faces and it’s obvious they’ve been sitting there all day, i never go there before 2 o clock in the afternoon. the folks there, the ones helping you behind the counter make shitty salaries, i really don’t mind giving them a little extra…

  11. ET says:

    didn’t they say they were getting rid of it in 2012?

    Yes, but not before doomsday.

  12. perseus says:

    My first trip to Jakarta was dire. Had to queue for an hour plus to get VOA. Just the thing after a long haul flight. My experience at Bali has been much better. Generally only a few minutes in the visa line.

    Indonesia is quite uncompetive with visas. India, Cambodia and the Phillipines all offer easy to get long term tourist visas. If Indonesia wants more tourists, make the visa easier to get!

    Still, VOA is not that bad if you fly into Bali. Getting another 30 days on the standard 30 day visa is a step in the right direction.

  13. bs says:

    I’ve “enjoyed” the VOA queue at both Jakarta and Surabaya quite a few times. Still faster than getting a visa at the embassy.

    About being uncompetitive, that’s not only with visa. In Indonesia it seems normal to think and say something, and than not act accordingly.

    You think you want foreign tourists to visit your country and you say that you want to.
    But then you make entering the country difficult, you start a “visit Indonesia” campaign inside Indonesia (anyone seen it outside of Indonesia?) and you make sure locals (especially government officials) have ample opportunity to solicit bribes.

    All locals are encouraged to dump their garbage in the most visible places and, if possible, you ban bikini’s and make sure there’s a shortage of alcohol.

    You also allow implementation of Sharia, caning, stoning and old farts marrying 9 year old girls. If there is any religious violence, you insist on not doing anything but you do make sure it’s widely reported in the news. You try to prevent proper maintenance on boats, trains and planes. After all, sinking boats, derailing trains and planes falling out of the sky are great tourist attractions. And lastly, since the tourists seem to like water, you disrupt proper urban planning so there is also enough water in the cities.

    Oh and don’t forget to spread some salmonella so the tourist have something to take home.

    Itulah Indonesia.
    I don’t really expect any efficient or effective policy any time soon in Indonesia, but I’ll just keep coming. I just love the country 😉

  14. Laurence says:

    Shame to lose the USD$10 VOA, saves $15 on short visits.

    I have already extended a 30 day VOA in Indonesia so whats the go there if it already exists, how can it be new???

    All countries should adopt the online visa system prior to travel like Cambodia, Australia and the USA. I suppose this system would be to easy and stop the immigration guys pocketing a little coin here and there.

    I think they also need to get rid of the sticker and someone buy them a stamp, save my passport pages and hasten the entry queue.

    And get rid of the fiskal tax for both Nationals and bules!!!

  15. Chris says:

    The Jakarta Post reports you can now get the 7-day $US10 visa in Batam, Bintan and Karimun; read here for more information.

  16. ET says:

    I think they also need to get rid of the sticker and someone buy them a stamp, save my passport pages and hasten the entry queue.

    About saving passport pages, someone should teach Imigrasi when stamping visa extensions not to skip pages. My passport has 5 empty pages in between the first and the last entry and they pretend these pages can’t be used any more. A passport that normally should last 5 years when all the pages are used in Indonesia only lasts 3 years.

    Also in Bali the digital fingerprinting for long term visitors has to be done all over again because the date were lost. Probably too lazy or careless to make back-ups.

    But I don’t think they will care. Lack of diligence and excellence will probably always be the main symptoms of the Indonesian disease.

  17. Ross says:

    I saw the report on Riau 7-day-visas, but it sounded very uncertain.

  18. Winmar says:

    Wow, about time! Tourists used to get 60 days on arrival for free until the highly regressive move in about 2002 to change to the restrictive rules we’ve endured since then. 30 days is laughable, particularly when compared to what another large country like India offers. Returning to 60 days is long overdue. So can tourists get 60 days automatically, or do they have to get a 30 day one and extend it later?

    My experience of visa on arrival in Jakarta is a dream compared to that in Makassar. It took an hour to get it there, and there were only half a dozen people needing one. But I understand from comments above that it’s not always great in Jakarta either! If they just stamped passports with free 60 day visas like they used to all of the problems would go away.

  19. sironi silvano says:

    new visa 26 january 2010

    it is possible visa on arrival to airport bali for 60 days?

  20. Jacob Christopher says:

    While I enjoyed my stay in Indonesia, especially a fabulous week in Bintan resorts, I hated the inevitable queue for visa.

  21. Chris says:

    I asked at Surabaya’s immigration office in Waru when I visited last week (while renewing my KITAS) the following questions about extending the 30-day tourist visa to 60 days:

    1. How much? Rp250 000

    2. How long to process? Two working days

    3. Do people need to bring any passport photos, fill in a form, etc.? No

  22. Winmar says:

    Sounds excellent!

  23. moda says:

    I’m holding the Jordanian citizenship and currently studying in Malaysia, i’ve been to Indonesia 3 times (twice to Bali and once to Surabaya), i need to apply for a visa in advance at the indonesian embassy here in Malaysia, however they always give me a 7 days visa (the fees is nearly 55 USD).
    I asked for longer than 7 days and they refused to give me, thought i share this here with everyone, because i couldn’t find another place to share it 🙂



  24. joe smith says:

    just slowly peel out the old used visas from your passport………and ta-da!!!!!!!!!!!! a whole new blank page…………….try it. it works………..just peel it out. both indo and china visas can be peeled off after use.

  25. Muhammad ullah says:

    I m Afghan citizen , I’m living in United Kingdom as a student and I have valid UK student visa , I want to go Indonesia for tour of 2 weeks in March 2011 so do I need to apply for visa or I will get the visa on arrival to Indonesia from airport ?

  26. benny says:

    Does anybody know if Papua New Guinea passport holder can get a Free Visa or Visa on Arrival in Sukarno Hatta or Ngurah Rai Airport?
    How about Aussie Pasport holder?

  27. dave says:

    is there a chance in Hell, that I could have my visa extended for just One extra day?
    I didn’t think so, but why the hell not?

  28. weber says:

    There was a time, not long after the bali bombing indonesia got one of the worst ministers ever: Yusril ihza mahendra. In his fanatic I-moslim-king mood he decided that the free visa policy needed to go. Worlds rich holidayspenders got in chock and decided to go elsewhere. Until now.

    What did Indonesia learn and do? Well Indonesia bangga, keras kepala and jam karet didn’t work out fine.
    If I wouldn’t have bonds with some friend In indonesia I wouln’t go too untill the hole new visa policy would have been revoked. I am dutch, we are not dependable of tourism. Indonesia however is, but only they seem to like to repel the good spending tourist al all costs, still.


  29. Tony Gee says:

    My wife and daughter (ASEAN Citizens) were leaving after a visit of 26 days and the officer at Polonia (Medan) charged them IDR800,000 for ‘overstaying’ when we believed they could stay 30 days. They had stayed only 24 days.
    No proper receipt given, only a piece of scrap paper with a signature.

    Was this real or a scam?


  30. Chris says:

    It was a scam.

    ASEAN countries’ citizens also get a 30-day visa, but for free:

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