The Lowdown on Indonesia’s Visa Requirements

The Lowdown on Indonesia's Visa Requirements - The Travel Lush

UPDATE: As of June 2015, Indonesia allows 30 countries to enter the country for 30 days for free.  That means no more VOA for most countries (sorry all of you Australians, you’re not on the list!  To find out more information check out this article.  There is still a little bit of confusion about whether or not this is being properly implemented so I’ll update this blog post as I learn more.

For anyone who’s planning a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia, understanding the visa requirements of each Southeast Asian country you plan to visit is key.  Trust me, there’s nothing worse than having to alter you plans or pay extra fees because you didn’t do your research beforehand.

Since I’ve been living in Indonesia for a little while now I’ve become incredibly familiar with Indonesia’s visa requirements.  It’s nothing complicated but I’m often asked about whether or not you need a visa to enter the country, how to get one, how long it lasts and so on.

When I travel, I depend on travel blogs almost exclusively to get up-to-date information.  So I figured I should be a good travel blogger and fellow traveler and share my knowledge with anyone out there who is Indonesia bound.  I not only included everything you need to know about the VOA and visa extension, but I give details about what steps you need to take to stay in the country long term.

The Visa Requirements for Indonesia:

Indonesia Visa on Arrival (VOA):

UPDATE: As of June 2015, Indonesia allows 30 countries to enter the country for 30 days for free.  That means no more VOA for most countries (sorry all of you Australians, you’re not on the list!  To find out more information check out this article.  There is still a little bit of confusion about whether or not this is being properly implemented so I’ll update this blog post as I learn more.

Visitors from most countries will be issued a VOA upon entering the country.  For a list of countries that will be issued a VOA head here.  The VOA costs $35USD and allows you to stay in the country for 30 days.  It’s possible to extend the visa one time, for an additional 30 days (more on that below).  If you overstay your visa it will put you back 300,000 rupiah (roughly $24) per day!  So, make sure to keep track of how long you’ve been in the country.

The beauty of a VOA is that you don’t have to arrange it beforehand.  Once you land in the country, just go directly to the “visa on arrival line.”  Make sure to purchase your visa before you go through immigration.  I’ve seen many a tourist standing around, wondering where to go first.  And many make the mistake of waiting in the lengthy immigration line before purchasing their VOA only to be sent away – always a bummer after a long flight.

Some tips:

You need to pay for your visa using cash.  If you can, pay in U.S. dollars and pay with exact change.  If you pay with another currency (including the Indonesian rupiah) or need change you will get a laughably poor exchange rate.

Bring a paper copy of your outbound ticket.  Not all immigration officers will ask for this, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.  I’ve heard about a lot of tourists who either didn’t book an outbound ticket or didn’t have a hard copy and are forced to buy a pricey exit ticket on the spot.  If you’re unsure how long you want to travel in Indonesia (like I was during my backpacking trip), the cheapest option is to book an AirAsia ticket from the Sumatran city of Medan to Penang, Malaysia.  That’s what I did.  It will only put you back around $15, but it could potentially save you some serious hassle.

Extending your visa:

It’s possible to extend your visa one time, in country.  Therefore, you can spend a maximum of 60 days in Indonesia before you have to leave.  You can either go to one of the country’s many immigration offices to get your visa extension or you can use an agent.

I don’t have experience getting a visa extension in Bali, but I believe the process is fairly easy to do on your own.  When I arrived in Jakarta I was told that I’d need an Indonesian to sponsor my extension, so I’ve been using an agent to sponsor me.  However, I have recently been told that you don’t actually need a sponsor in Jakarta, so you’ll have to ask around!

The cost of the visa is $25 if you’re doing it on your own.  Just to give you an idea of how much it costs to use an agent, I’ve been paying $92, which is a pretty substantial markup.

If you’re extending your visa in Indonesia make sure to plan ahead.  It takes five working days to process your visa.  Also, there are a lot of Indonesian holidays, so make sure you leave enough time to account for any holidays.  For a breakdown of the 2015 Indonesian national holidays go here.

It is also possible to arrange a 60-day visa ahead of time, either in your home country or abroad.  Before I first traveled to Indonesia I arranged a 60-day visa in Penang.  It was super easy and only took one day to process.  However, I have heard that the Indonesian embassy in Penang is an exception.  I’ve read about quite a few travelers who have been denied 60-day visas in places like Kuala Lumpur and told to just get a VOA.

Changes to Indonesia’s VOA requirements:

Indonesian officials recently stated that they will allow 30 countries – including the U.S., Canada and many European countries – to enter Indonesia for free for 30 days.  That means no more VOA as soon as April 2015!*  To see if your country made the list head here.  I hate to break it to you Aussies, you’re not on there!

*There’s no guarantee that this will actually happen so I will be sure to update this information when I learn more.

Staying longer than 60 days:

If you’re planning to travel in Indonesia for longer than two months, you will have to go on a visa run to another country.  There is a lot of speculation out there that Indonesia is clamping down on foreigners who are doing visa runs (especially those who are doing it repeatedly).

After living in Jakarta for eight months I’ve done three and have not been denied entry.  However, my passport is full of Indonesian visas (so full that I had to get pages added to my passport last month!).

I’ve decided that I’ve pushed my luck long enough so a couple of weeks ago I begrudgingly forked out the big bucks and arranged a Social Visit Visa (see below), which will enable me to stay in Indonesia for up to six months.  That being said, if you’re just doing one visa run, you should have no problem (obviously use your judgment on this).

Social-Cultural Visit Visa:

A lot of people travel to Indonesia (especially Bali) and never want to leave.  But Indonesia’s strict (and strictly enforced) visa requirements make this difficult.  And, take it from me, doing visa runs every two months gets really expensive.  I’ve now been in Indonesia for a grand total of eight months and because I’m terrified that, at some point, I won’t be let back into the country, I decided to finally bite the bullet and get sponsored for a Social-Cultural Visit Visa.

If you’re volunteering or just staying in Indonesia long term, this is the visa for you.  Note, that you cannot legally work in Indonesia with this visa.  You need a KITAS for that (see below).  You will need an Indonesian sponsor for this visa.  The cost is 2 million rupiah ($154) if you have a sponsor, expect to pay 500,000 rupiah more if you go through an agency.  You are also required to leave the country to activate the visa, which adds onto the cost.  The visa is valid for 60 days and can be extended a maximum of four times (for a max of 6 months).  Here’s is a breakdown of the cost (and what I have to look forward to paying every month!).

  • 1st extension – 1.2 million rupiah ($93)
  • 2nd extension – 1.4 million rupiah ($108)
  • 3rd extension – 1.4 million rupiah ($108)
  • 4th extension – 1.7 million rupiah ($131)

*Add an additional 300,000-500,000 rupiah onto each of these prices if you’re going through an agency.

It’s also important to note that you cannot leave the country with a Social-Cultural Visit Visa.  If you do, it’s null and void.

KITAS (work visa):

If you get a job in Indonesia, you will be sponsored for a KITAS by your employer.  I went into detail about my experience trying to find a job in Indonesia and the difficulty of getting a KITAS in this post.  If you want to work in Indonesia it’s really easiest to line up a job (and a work visa) ahead of time.  The KITAS process used to take 5 weeks but it can now take up to 5 months.  Just something to consider if you plan on working in Indonesia.

Well, I think that just about covers it.  Complicated, eh?

If anyone has any other questions or if I left out anything important please feel free to let me know in the comments.  Happy travels!

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

24 thoughts on “The Lowdown on Indonesia’s Visa Requirements

  1. That’s great news about possibly being able to enter for free soon! Wonder if that’s why they increased the fee recently – getting in as much cash as they can now? But man, that work visa situation sounds incredibly frustrating and complicated. Come to think of it, getting the visa extensions all the time to stay longer also sounds incredibly frustrating. 🙁 At least, you’ve been able to visit a few places on visa runs (even if it was costly). 🙂
    Shelley recently posted…Fresh: A Thai Cooking Class

    1. Not having to get a VOA will be so nice! Too bad it doesn’t apply to Australians. It’s kind of weird considering most travelers in Indonesia are Aussies. Yeah, the visa situation for workers is way more complex than it needs to be (in my opinion). And they’re supposedly going to make it even harder this year. I’ve heard they’re even going to make foreigners take a language test in order to be able to get their KITAS. So if you don’t speak bahasa, you can’t even get a visa!

      Visa runs have actually given me a great excuse to travel. So far I’ve done Penang, Cambodia and Singapore so I can’t complain too much 😉

  2. VOA is a great thing to have don’t have to do much planning besides remembering to bring money. Good tips to know just in case Indonesia is on my list of places to visit when l leave Australia.

    1. Haha, I got super ripped off setting up a visa for Vietnam in Vientiane. That was one of those times I didn’t do the proper research and had to rush it by going through an agent. I don’t remember how much I paid…but it was way too much. I hate dealing with visas!

  3. I’m still debating whether or not to go to Indonesia during my RTW trip.
    But it must be great since you keep wanting to stay! 🙂 Your detailed guide was excellent. Much better and more interesting than reading it from some government site 🙂
    Zascha recently posted…What’s on your bucket list?

    1. Thanks Zascha 🙂 Indonesia is a great country to travel in. There is so much to do. I’ve been here for 8 months and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Well, if you do decide to add Indonesia on to your itinerary, don’t hesitate to ask me any questions!

  4. I did the visa run thing for 10 months and like you said, it was very costly. If (/when) I go back, I’ll definitely apply for a social visa. I was worried about doing that last time because I thought I might want to leave the country and travel around, which I did. But I love being in Bali so much, I didn’t really feel the need to leave… Indonesia is such a vast and divers country, you could easily go on fabulous vacations within the country, don’t you think?
    Was it straightforward to get a social visa?
    Also, I just read that the free visa thing, is not going to happen after all. At least not yet… 🙁
    Sarah recently posted…What’s in… Iran?

    1. Wow, you did visa runs for 10 months? I wonder if I would have just done two or three more if I would have had an issue or not…The visa run thing definitely gets really costly. I’ve really enjoyed being able to do some more traveling around Southeast Asia, but I would have loved to have used those opportunities (and money) to just travel around Indonesia. I agree, there is just so much to do here! The Social Visit Visa was pretty easy to do through an agent, but it really is expensive. Plus, you have to leave the country to activate it and check in at immigration every month so it’s still a pain! But at least I no longer have to be scared of being denied entry to the country! Ha, there is so much misinformation about the free visa thing. I cannot for the life of me figure out if it’s going to happen or not.

  5. Hi Justine. I could be wrong but you don’t actually need a sponsor to extend your voa. My husband extended his voa in Jakarta last week all by himself and it went without a hitch.

    1. Thanks for letting me know! I’m going to update the post now. I feel like everyone has a different experience getting a visa here. Maybe my boyfriend and I just got the wrong information. That’s certainly possible!

  6. Hi, is it really correct that the sponsor needs to pay for cultural social visa? I hear this first time and many of my friends have this visa and many times extend it:) as well extension in Yogyakarta costs 300 00 Rp. can be that in different countires, different cities of Indonesia the prices are different?

    1. As far as I know you need to have a sponsor to get a social visit visa (that’s what the agency I go through says…I could be wrong!). This can be a company, an Indonesian citizen or an agent. But you can pay for it yourself. And yes, you can extend it up to four times, meaning you can stay a total of 6 months. Extending a social visit visa is much more expensive than extending a VOA. But maybe extension prices very from place to place? The visa situation is a bit complex here so if you’re planning on getting a visa it’s best to research the prices as best you can 🙂 Everything I wrote here is based on a my personal experience and a ton of research…Hope this helps Ria!

    1. Hi Chandra. I’ve read all sorts of news stories that it has been implemented but given the amount of misinformation I’m not 100 percent positive. I haven’t done the VOA thing since it was supposedly implemented. Are you headed to Indonesia? If you find out for sure will you let me know?

  7. i arrived Surabaya last Oct 27 and my social visa will end on the 22nd of Dec….i’m invited to train teachers to speak English….the HR of the school told me that my social visa has been denied….what am i supposed to do? ….Am looking forward to work here.

    1. Hmm, I’m not entirely sure. The organization you work with should be sponsoring you, but if they won’t sponsor you then I would probably talk to an agent and ask their advice. Sorry I can’t be of more help. Good luck!

  8. Hi, Justine.

    I just wanted to say that I think the information you presented here is a bit misleading. It makes it sound like the expensive Social-Cultural Visit Visa is the best or only option to stay in Indonesia longer than 60 days. I think the regular 60-day tourist visa is a much better option. It’s far cheaper, doesn’t require a sponsor for the initial visa, and can be extended up to four times for a total of six months in the country.

    Like you, I got my 60-day tourist visa at the Indonesian consulate in Penang, Malaysia. I didn’t have to provide a sponsor or special documents of any kind to get it. I was asked for a photo, a copy of my passport, and proof of a flight out of the country. I planned on entering and exiting by ferry, so I didn’t have a flight. Instead, I provided a credit card as proof that I had sufficient funds. And that was it. I dropped off my passport in the morning and picked it up with the visa the next day.

    I’ve extended the visa one time already without leaving Indonesia. I just had to visit an immigration office and apply. This 30-day extension did require getting a sponsor, but that wasn’t terribly hard. I did have some difficulties getting this first extension, but I think my experience was an exception. I just happened to go to a poorly organized (and perhaps corrupt) immigration office. Based on my research online, most people have no trouble extending this tourist visa.

    The fees for this are also far less than what you list for the Social-Cultural Visit Visa. At the consulate in Penang, I paid 190 Malaysian Ringgit ($43 US) for the original visa. That was for 60 days. And my first 30-day extension cost 355,000 rupiah ($25 US). And I did this on my own without the help of an agent.

    Anyway, I don’t see any reason to apply for the Social-Cultural Visit Visa when a regular tourist visa is easier to get, is so much cheaper, and can be extended up to four times. I’m far from an expert in Indonesian visas, but this is based on my own experience. When I went to the Indonesian consulate in Penang, the Social-Cultural Visit Visa wasn’t even presented as an option. I just got a regular application form for a tourist visa and filled it out just as I would have for any country. The Social-Cultural Visit Visa never came up.

    I do know that it’s pretty much impossible to get this 60-day tourist visa in Kuala Lumpur. I don’t know why, but they just won’t issue it there. But you can get it in Penang and in Singapore. I haven’t heard whether this visa can be obtained in places like Thailand or Vietnam or the Philippines or elsewhere. Maybe other people can chime in on that. In any event, I think it’s worth trying to get the 60-day tourist visa first before resorting to the Social-Cultural Visit Visa. I’m not even sure what the Social-Cultural Visit Visa is for. It seems to have no advantages over any other visa. It seems to have more restrictions and cost more but have no advantages. So I’m not sure what it’s for.

    Cheers,

    Doug
    Doug Nienhuis recently posted…Northern Sumatra Cycling Route

    1. Hi Doug. I’m sorry if you found the information misleading. Like I said in this post, this was purely based on my experience in Jakarta. I completely agree that getting the 60-day tourist visa in Penang is the way to go. I did this multiple times. I was told that it’s not extendable. But again, that was my experience in Jakarta. Also, it seems like they are more strict in Jakarta than in Bali or maybe I was just lied to? I have heard that you might be able to extend it Bali, but I have no idea. The only reason I eventually got the Social Visit visa was because I got nervous that I had too many Indonesian visas in my passport (I even had to get extra pages put in!). Not sure if it was the right choice but I did it for peace of mind. It was very expensive and I wouldn’t recommend going that route if you’re traveling to Indonesia for less than six months though! And obviously everyone should investigate these things for themselves because it seems like different immigration offices have different rules in Indonesia 😉

  9. Hi Justin,

    Can you let us know what happened with your KITAS application finally? Did it go through? Did you get rejected? Just wondering because I will be applying for it soon too.

    Thanks

    1. I never actually had to apply for a KITAS because I just ended up freelancing. But my boyfriend did get his. It took about four months. But my friend recently got one in just a few weeks’ time. I think it really depends on your company.

  10. Hi!

    My husband and I will be expatriate teachers in Indonesia soon. We have informed the school that we will bring our son with us. Thus, we need someone to look after him while we are at work. We want to bring our current nanny with us since she is someone we can trust already and next to us, she is someone that our son is familiar or comfortable with. We consider her as part of our family already for she has been so good to us and has shown her genuine love for our son. We know that she can be given a tourist visa but is only good for a month. Do you have any suggestion on how we can possibly prolong her stay?

    Thank you and looking forward to your response.

    Diana

    1. Having your nanny shouldn’t be an issue. She’ll either need to get a Social Visit Visa (which can be arranged through an agent) or she can do visa runs every 60 days like I did. Good luck with the big move!

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