Expat Recruitment Bali Style By Ines Wynn

With strict laws governing expat employment and the expensive work permit process it involves, getting a job in Bali or Indonesia is fraught with challenges. Yet, many expats find gainful employment, some legally, some not. How do they go about it?  There are a few recruitment agencies with dream job postings and a mission to help qualified candidates navigate the choppy waters. There is also a sort of underground network that may steer the hopefuls to a successful ending. What advice do they have for the novice or jaded job seeker?

First the rules – To work legally in Bali, one absolutely must have a work permit, called IMTA (Ijin Mempekerjakan Tenaga Kerja Asing).  It is not always easy to understand the work permit rules as they are frequently changing.  It is a long and complex process and it usually takes about 2 months to obtain the coveted document.  It is also expensive at roughly 8 to 10 million IDR for the initial IMTA, in addition to the $100 per month government tax, which has to be paid in advance. It also requires biannual (every 6-months) or yearly renewals, depending on the type of industry or job.But to get that coveted permit you absolutely need employer sponsorship, a process which recalls the chicken before the egg type thing.  This implies your prospective employer must agree to sponsor you for the job and pay the stipulated fees. Sponsorship entails a bureaucratic paper mill for the employer which means that few small companies will want to bother if Indonesian candidates are a viable alternative. A work permit can only be initiated by the prospective employer and it must be a legal business entity that is allowed to hire a foreigner. Bear in mind that if you obtained a residence permit (KITAS) due to being married to an Indonesian partner, you are not allowed to work. Neither can you work if you have a Retirement KITAS.  Let alone on a regular tourist or social visa.

If you want to establish your own business you can set up a PT-PMA (Perseroan Terbatas -Penanaman Modal Asing) which is considered a foreign investment company and which allows foreign ownership and foreign partnership.  Some categories allow a 100% share in particular lines of trade; others up to maximum 49% in the case of a service company. Setting up a PT-PMA is not for the fainthearted and, yes, very expensive. It needs to be done correctly following all the documentation and procedures needed with forming a company in Indonesia. Setting up a PMA involves a partnership where one or more of the shareholders are foreigners or a foreign entity and at least 2 Indonesian shareholders. Another option is to establish a local PT (PT Swasta National). This is a Limited Liability Company which is 100% Indonesian-owned and cannot issue shares to foreigners. A Local PT functions under a nominee structure where the Indonesian owner is the nominee and the foreigner is considered an employee.

A third option is to apply for a Business visa which represents less hassle and less red tape though you must understand that this type of visa does not allow a foreigner to work except in an advisory or consulting capacity to an existing company licensed to do business in Indonesia.  The downside is the limited 2-month validity, after which you can apply for up to 4 monthly extensions; in total 6 months.

The business visa is unfortunately a very “grey” area.  Theoretically, a business visa is used for business trips, short courses, seminars, trainings, and meetings. Immigration officials still make decisions at their own discretion and might or might not let free lancers like Yoga teachers, DJs, musicians, use a business visa. Keep this in mind if you are thinking of setting yourself up as an independent or free-lance worker.

On the other hand, if you are a teacher with bona fide credentials you can apply directly to the schools. Many schools will sponsor you; in fact, they place regular ads in Bali publications. So do real estate companies and hotels. Normally these places of employment will take care of all the proper permits and you don’t have to worry about it.


The Big recruitment agencies – There are a just a few visible and serious official employment recruiters in Bali and they are anxious to toe the rules.  Dietrich De Roeck from Global Expat Recruiting, an agency dealing primarily with upper echelon jobs in the hospitality sector for 4 or 5 star properties, says he is very careful to check applicants’ work status and does some background checking, especially reference checks.  He relies a lot on supplied references and mentions there is a definite code of conduct to extract meaningful and truthful information from referees. Though references given by the job seeker can be very selective, there is a good chance that, if the candidate has a checkered background or has been involved in petty crime, it will come out one way or another.

Established in 2008, Global Expat is focused on senior recruitment for the Asia Pacific hospitality industry and has offices in Bali and Vietnam. The agency works in partnership with many clients and offers a highly specialised style of personal service. Dietrich and his team are experts in the recruitment of upper strata/executive level candidates like hotel managers, executive chefs, F&B managers, sales directors and corporate executives for employers who are able to sponsor work permits for suitable foreign candidates.

Global Expat uses an online registration form which, reflecting Indonesian norms, does request discretionary information like date of birth, gender, marital status and religion which would be totally absent from western application forms.  The reasons are that prospective employers are often very adamant about finding the “right” candidate.  Professionals with a pedigree CV and rich experience stand less of a chance if over 50 years old as often employers opt to hire “less senior” employees.  Dietrich adds that the hospitality industry is less discriminating, probably because the major hotel chains he recruits for are mostly foreign-owned and as a rule, follow the conventions of their mother countries. Stick to large multi-national companies. You stand a better chance they will sponsor you.

Another major Bali recruiter is Concord Services which deals with a lot of positions in the general business sector and does not specialise in any particular industry. They do however offer tailored consulting services for people wishing to set up PT-PMAs and can shepherd you through the application process for all types of visas.


Other contenders – Key Hospitality Solutions is a smaller agency which also zeroes into the hospitality sector. What sets them apart is that they provide training services such as HACCP (Food Safety Management System) and various food & beverage service and management consulting services. Another recruiter, Seed Plus Global is the new kid on the block. It has an office in Bali and offers many lower echelon positions.

There are also a slew of online recruitment agencies in Indonesia according to Google and they are mostly based in Java. It’s worth checking out as they also list Bali jobs.


Professional and Cultural challenges – But one thing stands out, in order to find a reasonably lucrative job in Bali as an expat, you must have a good skill set, lots of experience, and be relatively young, ideally under 40. Though expats have typically commanded higher salaries, their Indonesian counterparts are fast gaining the same advantages. Given the same skill sets and experience, they may even be in direct competition with expats due to the employer not having to fork out a housing allowance, international health insurance, work permit costs, etc. In addition, due to the current hotel crunch, Indonesians now have better chances than ever, especially if they have foreign degrees or can boast good foreign experience.

Expats also have to keep in mind that it is paramount they have to adapt to the local culture and not the other way around. An expat executive chef who waltzes around the kitchen in Gordon Ramsey style is apt to find that he or she will be shown the backdoor very quickly if s/he cannot work with the local staff in the patient and courteous manner this environment requires.

On the other side of that, expats with specific skills that are not readily available here will find an easier time. Language skills, especially Mandarin, Russian,Japanese are sought after.  There are also many festivals, events and happening with temporary jobs that are available.


The unofficial network – Due to the high cost and frustrating bureaucracy of work permit rules some small businesses like shops, spas, salons may try to hire temporary workers ‘under the table”.Word of these “opportunities” usually comes down via the rumour mill, more politely termed the connective network. Expat forums sometimes include these requests. However, beware of these false opportunities. These jobs are not worth the risk of deportation. They are illegal if you have no sponsored work permit and there are too many stool pigeons and informants who will gladly report you to the authorities for the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes or a chance to cosy up to “power”. Word to mouth information of plum jobs is only reserved for the legal applicants.

Due to much tighter scrutiny of foreigners, ad rem controls are often practiced and raids are all too frequent.  If you get caught in the dragnet, the only way out is paying a hefty fine and possibly deportation. Don’t flaunt the rules.

If you have a LinkedIn account, don’t underestimate the value of this professional network. Jobs are often posted and references and links can lead to legitimate work.  It does take some time to establish a presence and get noted but the LinkedIn tentacles reach far and wide. Take advantage of it. A good rule of thumb is to be socially or professionally visible and get to know key players in your field.


On the lighter side – Recruiters sometimes encounter unusual or amusing experiences. Global Expat’s director Dietrich recalls a funny story where a working GM applied for his own job, not realizing his manager was about to fire him and had posted a confidential job ad for his replacement with a recruiter. That recruiters sometimes stand in the firing line is sometimes an unavoidable part of their job. One particular GM had been officially hired and was ready to take up his new post when the previous disgruntled employer came on the scene and imparted some damaging and, as it turned out, false information attempting to sabotage the process. As with everything else in life, it’s a buyer beware world.

If you wish to explore the shifting sands of expat work procedures check out the following resources:


New Work Permit Regulations in Indonesia


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