Daniel O’Leary explains the ins and outs of the permit system
I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” When Socrates uttered these immortal words around 450 BC, residency matters were clearly much more straightforward. Perhaps today, taking into account Greece’s financial troubles, he might classify himself as a citizen of the EU.
Similarly, when you decide to live in Bali, one of the first tasks is to determine your current situation and circumstances and then apply for the appropriate visa. You will be offered many shortcuts and tricks to beat the system. But it is much better to play it straight. If you plan to spend many years in Indonesia it is surely worthwhile to take time to understand the basic application process and familiarise yourself with the paperwork involved in living and working in Indonesia, legally.
Having decided to live in Bali, and with a job lined up, the next step is to apply for a visa. Many companies tell their employees to get business visas as it is much easier and quicker. They are correct in saying it is much easier and quicker, but it is also illegal to work in Indonesia under a business visa. A business visa is only applicable where someone is visiting or staying in the country short term to conduct business such as sourcing products and services or arranging contracts with manufacturers.
If you are employed by an Indonesian company or an Indonesian division of a foreign company and are based here long term, then a business visa is not suitable and you need to apply for a KITAS (temporary stay visa) with work permit. There have been several incidents over the years of people who were working illegally under business visas being detained, deported and barred from Indonesia for a period of years.
The KITAS permits are valid for one year and are extendable in-country. To lodge an application you will need to provide the following documents:
Copy of your passport.
Curriculum Vitae and references
Copy of Academic qualifications
Passport photographs with red backgrounds (21 x 4cm x 6cm, 8 x 3cm x 4cm, 6 x 2cm x 3cm).
Additionally, you will need your employer to provide the following original paperwork.
The company Deed (Akte Perusahaan)
The company’s domicile documents (Domisili Perusahaan)
The company’s tax number (NPWP)
The company’s business licence letter (SIUP)
The company’s registration number (TDP)
Copy of employee contract between you and company
Director’s identity card (KTP)
Commissioner’s identity card (KTP)
Certificate of registration to the Department of Labour (UU No. 17, 1981)
Twenty company letter heads, signed by the company director, and sealed with the company stamp.
It would be wise to check that your prospective employer actually has all these papers before getting overexcited about your career prospects. You must also give instruction as to which Indonesian consulate abroad you wish to pick up your visa. Before a work permit can be issued the applicant must pay the sum of US$1,200 into a government bank account which is supposed to fund training of professionals who will one day replace expat experts.
This payment should be made in person or at least you should accompany the agent when making this payment. There have been many cases where unsuspecting applicants had their agents make this payment on their behalf only to find out that the dodgy agents pocketed the money, leaving them with fake work permits and thus liable to a prison sentence if detected.
Expect the whole application process to take up to a month after which time a fax will be sent to the Indonesian consulate you nominated authorising them to issue you with a Kitas. After entering Indonesia you are allowed about five days (the exact period will be on the immigration stamp in your passport) to report to Immigration office to validate your visa. Your agent will normally accompany you on this visit and babysit you through the ensuing fingerprinting process.
On completion of the process you should have in your possession four original documents issued in the following order. A KITAS – identity card, a Blue Book – immigration log book on which will be logged any changes to your immigration status including changes of address, marital status, etc, a work permit (IKTA) and a police certificate (SKLD). You should bring your KITAS with you at all times and remember you are allowed only to work for the company documented as your sponsor and in the capacity listed on your KITAS and IKTA.
Once you are granted a KITAS you are obliged to get a personal tax number NPWP and file your tax report at end of tax year. You are responsible for this process, not your employer. In many cases, the employer undertakes to pay taxes on behalf of the employee; however, you must be sure to demand certificate of payment from your employer. There have been many documented cases where the employee only discovered at the end of a contract that he/she owed a lot of money to the taxman.
Once a KITAS is issued, you are not allowed to leave the country without an exit permit; there are a few options here, like single re-entry exit permit, multiple re-entry valid for six months or multiple re-entry valid for 12 months. It is best to have a 12-month multiple re-entry permit in case you need to travel abroad for emergencies. At the end of your KITAS period you have the option to extend in-country. If you are not extending you must apply for a termination certificate (EPO). This is basically a guarantee to the government that you are not leaving with any “unfinished business.” Overall, it would be advisable to memorise and understand the terms KITAS, IKTA, SKLD, KTP and EPO as you will hear them over and over again.
If you have much time and patience, you can process the visa and work permit yourself, but be prepared to spend many days waiting in government offices. There are many agents (“Biro Jasa”) offering visa processing services and though they appear to be selling similar products their prices vary quite considerably. Shop around until you find an agent you are comfortable with and do not base your decision solely on price. Contacting an agent who gave you a great price and whose office is on the back of a motorbike may be more challenging than communicating with an established professional firm. A couple of practical questions to ask an agent before committing would be:
How long they have been providing this service?
Can they introduce you to somebody who has been a client for years (original application and extensions)?
You should also visit their office and get familiar with the individual handling your application. It may sound complicated and a hassle but frankly if you plan to live in Indonesia, it is definitely worth the effort to get familiar with the process and then future extensions will be just a minor formality. You also won’t need to be looking over your shoulder and suffering from anxiety attacks when you hear rumours of a “razia” or raid by immigration officals; or end up like Socrates “philosophising” about weighty matters – like why you didn’t go to the trouble of getting the correct visa in the first place and avoiding the repercussions.
Daniel O’Leary has lived and worked in Indonesia for 25 years, holds Indonesian citizenship and is a director of IndoAdvisors (www.indoadvisors.com), a company based in Bali offering business and legal advisory services.