The ‘Home Leave’ Visa

The best advice on getting Indonesian visas in America or Europe is, “Don’t do it.” Arrange your travel so that you pass through Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore, where it is the usual three-day, no-muss-no-fuss, in-and-out (one day if you pay the ‘express fee’ in Bangkok and Singapore). Not to say there can’t be complications and frustrations at the visa mills of Southeast Asia, just they are much less than at their counterparts in Western countries.

Most of the recent visa complaints I’ve heard have come from people trying to get visas in America or Europe. The Los Angeles Indonesian consulate took three weeks to supply one applicant with the proper forms (the consulate’s on-line forms are unusable). The San Francisco consulate returned another application saying the applicant had incorrectly printed the on-line forms on two one-sided pages instead of on one two-sided page (no mention of this requirement is on the Web site). A consulate in France delayed another visa, saying it needed an officially stamped letter certifying that the sponsor on a social visa lived in the village named on his identity card (this isn’t listed as a requirement on any list I’ve ever seen).

So, if you end up with no choice but to apply for a visa in the West be prepared to allow plenty of time. Check the Web sites of the Indonesian consulates available to you in your home or other country. Talk with other Bali foreign residents to see if they’ve ever done a visa in your home country and ask what troubles they’ve had. Consulates in the West can be stickier on the rules, asking for bank statements and such, and some even make up a few rules of their own.

If planning to do a visa by mail, start early looking for the correct forms to use for the embassy or consulate at which you plan to apply. Some consulates supply on-line forms that can be printed and used for on application; others do not; some, like the Los Angeles consulate, supply on-line forms, but the formatting is so poor they can’t be used. Use the Web sites, too, to review the process and fees for each consulate, which may differ slightly, and if you have any questions, try e-mailing or calling the consulate you hope to use. This will be mostly frustrating, but could save the greater frustration of having an “incomplete” application returned. If the consulate is unresponsive to e-mails and phone calls, think about changing your visa plans.

Allow at least five business days if you are planning to do a visa at an Indonesian embassy or consulate in a Western country in person, and a minimum of two weeks (after you have the proper forms) if you are planning on doing one by express mail service or courier. Don’t forget that you will need to include a pre-paid envelope for the return of your passport and, hopefully, visa. Make sure you have the contact information in Bali for your agent or sponsor in case the embassy or consulate asks for any further documentation from them.

I just renewed a visa by mail at the San Francisco Indonesian consulate on a trip to the US and had a pleasant surprise. Officials at the consulate actually answered the phone and provided information. I was able to double-check the documentary requirements for the visa, make sure the on-line forms were usable and ask questions about how to fill them out, and call to make sure my application had been received and was being processed. Using UPS and including a pre-paid return mailer with my application and passport, I received my visa in less than 10 working days.

Indonesia’s Immigration Department has stopped giving extensions on multiple-entry business visas. Holders of these visas will get 60 days on entry, and then have to exit and reenter to get 60 more days. The visas remain valid for one-year periods.

Copyright © 2006 Tropical Tramp