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The Bali Visa maze

June 27, 2009

To live in Bali, you naturally need a Visa. The standard Visa on Arrival (VOA) that Aussies get is only valid for 30 days max, and can’t be renewed. You have to leave the country – even for a few hours – and return and pay for another VOA ($25USD) before the 30 days are up. Some people actually choose to do this “Visa Run” to Singapore, Perth or Darwin each month, but it can get pricey if you don’t get cheap air fares.

An alternative is the Social Visa (Social Budya) which you have to apply for at an Indonesian Consulate. It lets you stay for 2 months in Bali, then has to be renewed for a month at a time at the Immigration Department. After 6 months, you have to leave the country anyway and apply for a new Social Visa. you also need a permanent resident as a ‘sponsor’, and you are not allowed to earn money while in Bali.

The one I went for was a ‘Retirement Visa’. Again, you need to apply through the Consulate, be over 55, promise not to work, get a sponsor, provide evidence of savings in a bank account (equivalent to at least $1500 USD for each month you intend to stay), have a medical insurance policy (see a later post regarding ways to save money on this), have personal liability insurance, life insurance … the list goes on. I found it useful to apply while still in Bali on my penultimate trip before moving here. I could have done the convoluted paperwork myself – except all the forms are in Bahasa Indonesia) and paid all the ‘administration fees’ at each step of the process – but I didn’t. Instead, I used an agent. A good immigration agent will take care of all the administrivia for you and even arrange a legal sponsor. Yes it costs – expect to pay between 4.5 to 8 million rupiah (up to $900 AUD) – but I reckon it is worth it. There have been cases of people trying it themselves – and finally giving up to use an agent.

After you apply in Bali (or Singapore if you prefer) the application goes to Jakarta for approval – a process that takes about 2 weeks. Then you go back to Oz and wait until approval from Jakarta comes through (in my case) to the Consulate in Queens Road, Melbourne. Roll up in the morning only (check opening times) with your passport, completed sponsorship form (which the agent will send you) AND an itinerary showing your departing flight details. The Consulate’s website recommends that you don’t book a flight to Bali until they have processed your application – but that is simply not true. No itinerary, no progress on your application until you supply it. Don’t forget the fees – about $168 AUD. And remember to use the back entrance in Queens Lane – you can’t even stop the car in Queen’s Rd. Once you have managed to apply correctly, you will get a receipt. You will have to bring this with you to collect your Visa the following week.

Then you wait for about 7 days for them to process the paperwork. Go back to the Consulate (in the afternoon this time, and at the specified time) and collect your passport which will now have a beautifully engraved Visa inside. This is called a VITAS, and hopefully will get you into the country. A valid Visa is no guarantee that you will get in – that is up to Immigration at the airport.

Within 7 days of arrival, you must take your passport, with VITAS, to the Immigration Department so that they can issue you with a residency permit – the Retirement KITAS – a card which you carry around with you. If you used an agent, they will do this for you – just give your passport to them and two weeks later, you will have your KITAS. Keep several photocopies of your passport and VITAS page – you are bound to need them.

Caution: If you are sending unaccompanied baggage with household stuff, it will probably arrive several days after you do. The problem is, to pick it up, you need your passport (see later post on sending baggage). Yours truly – fearsomely efficient that I am – handed his passport over to the agent before collecting the luggage. The subsequent negotiations at the Air Cargo terminal were not pretty …

Don’t forget to report to the village head within 24 hours of arrival (you will need a photocopy of your passport and the VITAS page inside).

And finally, when you get your KITAS card after a few weeks, you will have to report to the police for fingerprinting and digital photographs …

There are other Visa types as well – if you want to work here, you will need a KITAS (not a Retirement KITAS, but the full deal), or a Business Visa. Expenses for a KITAS are similar to the Retirement KITAS, but on top of the normal fees you must pay the government an additional $1200 USD (per year!) for the privilege. And you must register for tax, or else pay a “FISCAL’ penalty of about $300 AUD each time you leave the country … more about this in a later post!

Welcome to paradise. A massage and a Bintang are absolutely essential after you have survived this process!

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