The Inadvertent Travel Ban During Your KITAS Renewal

August 17, 2011

I can’t help feeling just a little bit cheated. My Retirement KITAS, plus its essential companion, the Multiple Entry and Exit endorsement, lets me live in Indonesia for a year while using it as a travel hub to explore other countries, right? Umm, not really. Yes, I can live in Bali for a year. Yes, I can travel wherever, and whenever I want – unless the authorities have my passport for some reason.

To renew my KITAS each year, I need to provide the usual mountain of bureaucratic guff. This includes bank statements to show that I am not an impecunious drifter and can actually afford to live here, and proof of health insurance, life insurance and liability insurance. I also need a copy of my accommodation lease, one affidavit to confirm that I will employ Indonesian staff, and another one solemnly swearing that I will not engage in work while I am here. Then there is the mandatory Curriculum Vitae, a document hardly likely to change much from year to year for me now. Oh yes, and the eighteen, yes eighteen photographs, in three different sizes, which are only acceptable if they are on a red background.

At the time I provide this folder of goodies to the Immigration Department, I also must surrender my passport, Blue Book, and KITAS.  These documents must be in their hands well before the KITAS expires. Processing is supposed to take less than a month, but this is Indonesia, so most agents recommend that the annual renewal circus starts at least two months before expiry.

And there’s the problem. A passport is, of course, mandatory for overseas travel, so I’m stuck in Indonesia while without one. For me, this is a big issue in case of a family emergency back home. But even for travel within Indonesia, a passport serves as the preferred ID for just about everything, with a KITAS coming in a poor second. So, if I’m unwilling to be caught short without valid ID, I can’t travel outside Bali either. And because my KITAS gets me local rates at clinics, hospitals, hotels and shops – even Waterbom Park – I lose those benefits as well while not in possession of this document.

In Indonesia, the wheels of authority grind through their incomprehensible by-ways with excruciating slowness. My first annual renewal took over six weeks, ostensibly because “computer problems” caused the process to get stuck in the works. When I finally did get the call to report to Immigration – just ten days before an optimistically-booked overseas flight – I thought my problems were over. On the day, the paperwork went relatively quickly, I was fingerprinted again (even though I didn’t think my fingers had changed all that much in a year), photographed again (eighteen photos aren’t enough?) and was finally standing there in anticipation of getting my passport and KITAS back.

“Oh no,” said the man. “They will be sent to your agent.” My heart sank. “How long will that take?” I asked with some trepidation.  “Two weeks,” he said casually. Several panicky phone calls, some inspired grovelling and much waving of flight itineraries later, my agent came through for me. I got my documents back two days before my flight. That’s too close for comfort.

My second renewal, earlier this year, took more than 2 months. This time, the more creative excuse was that the Immigration office was being investigated by an anti-corruption squad, so no work could be done. I thought of offering a bribe, but under the circumstances thought that wasn’t such a good idea. So this year, two months were completely blocked to travel. And apparently I’m one of the lucky ones. One acquaintance reported a processing time of  five months! At this rate, it will take twelve months to process a KITAS renewal by 2015, which will sort of defeat the purpose of having one in the first place.

Surely one small change in procedures would help to eliminate this unwanted and undesirable travel ban? After all, it’s just a side-effect of the current requirement to surrender our travel and residency documents, so why not just get notarised photocopies and give those to the Immigration Department while they do their thing? Then we could retain possession of our most important documents and have the freedom to travel year-round, instead of only nine (or fewer) months of the year. Then, when the administrivia has been completed, we could just drop in again to get our passports stamped with the new visa, collect our new KITAS, and go. I wouldn’t feel quite so cheated, or trapped on the island if they did it this way.

Or is this suggestion too sensible?



  1. I’m thinking there are photos of you all over Indonesia…… 18 x how many years……. lol

    I mean REALLY, what could they possibly do with 18 (19) photos?

    • Darts practice?

  2. Well, yes.

  3. Hmm 18 photos gosh…
    And i’m amazed at the red background, first time i ever heard of ID pictures with a red background…
    Very graphic i guess…

  4. I think your suggestions are too easy and too efficient to be taken into consideration.
    As for the photos, normally you will get 16 of them back again :-).
    For your info; in Jakarta all is taken electronically now, fingerprints, photo, similar to the driving license and the progress is much faster and KITAS is now like an ID card.
    Maybe the electronic age will reach Bali one day as well.

    • One can only live in hope!

  5. One feels exhausted just reading this – can’t imagine going through it – again & again…& again…

  6. Last year, for my KITAS, i required my passport during the process, and my agent was able to get it back for the periods i needed it for, albeit not long periods.

    i also carry a copy of my KITAS, looks identical and homemade!

    this year i will have the pleasure of my KITAS running out and having to renew rather than extend, as i cant get back to Bali in time. that should be fun!

    • Seems like there could certainly be a better way to handle the whole process!
      As for the KITAS renewal, I understand it is possible to start the renewal process earlier and perhaps get it back before you leave, even before the old KITAS expires. I think its validity period is still for the same dates as before.

  7. Maybe it help you to deal with your fear about an emergency at home: Even if you papers are inside of the burocracy wheels – your agent can take it always out for an emergency exit …. its working.

    I always only carry copies of all papers – they always accept it – latest with the excuse: the orginals stuck in immigrasi ….. 🙂

    • Good idea – thanks!

  8. i cant remember why I was at the imigration building near the bali airport, but the guy working there had a very large stack of passport photos of hot western women, some he even tried to give me as a present. so thats where some or most of them end up i think. if u r a guy, im sure the 15 unused photos just go in the bin

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