Indonesia Expat

KITAS Rules Tighten as Indonesia Reduces the Stay Period for Certain Expats

The government recently reduced the stay period for expats in certain industries. Here’s what workers in service, trading, and consulting should consider.  

Since last year, the KITAS—otherwise known as the temporary resident card for foreigners in Indonesia—has become harder to come by. The election year of 2014 was a confusing one for human resource departments across the country, particularly with the fluid nature of KITAS regulations making life difficult. Add to that rumours of an impending compulsory TOIFL (Test of Indonesian as Foreign Language) and it’s easy to see why the 65,000 foreigners currently on a KITAS may be following the developments with interest.

Some expats are already starting to feel the squeeze. At least as much is confirmed by Marlissa Dessy, co-founder and director of Indosight, a firm that provides legal support and market entry services to foreign companies looking to set up shop in Indonesia.

“The amount of time recommended for a working visa has changed from one year to six months for advisor positions in the service, trading, and consulting sectors,” explains  Dessy, a bona fide veteran in the KITAS process. “The problem is that the only positions available for foreigners in these three sectors are advisor positions.” Dessy and the Indosight team confirm that the government published this news online, but that it did not actually include a date on the article, making it tough to pinpoint exactly when the new rule went into effect.

Visa paperwork by Jeff Warner

But that’s not the only change. The KITAS process, which once took several weeks, is now also being drawn out due to other morphing regulations. As a foreigner, you may be forgiven for thinking that Indonesia is a welcoming place unless of course, you intend to work here.

Starting from the beginning, here are some changes that you need to be aware of.

Tighter Manpower approval

The first step to getting a KITAS starts with your sponsor company. They will need to obtain an IMTA (Izin Mempekerjakan Tenaga Kerja Asing) from the Department of Manpower, which will authorise the company to hire foreign employees. This document will dictate the number of foreigners that the company is permitted to hire along with the number of job titles that it is permitted to assign. So if a company can hire five employees with two titles, the intake might officially be four engineers and one director, for example. In recent years, local companies have found the IMTA increasingly difficult to obtain, according to a group of human resource officers who prefer to remain anonymous.

The difficulty now occurs because the government is requiring more specific qualifications to work in particular sectors. For working foreigners, the first step to getting a KITAS is a VTT or Visa Tinggal Terbatas. This is the initial stamp or sticker that you get from the Indonesian embassy abroad, which is converted into a KITAS once you return to Indonesia. Several years ago it was a case of simply providing your Passport, CV, and a letter from your employer to obtain a VTT.

Marlissa Dessy, co-founder and director of Indosight

But now it’s more complicated, as many foreigners are hired as Tenaga Ahli or “experts,” Immigration and Manpower are now requesting, or rather demanding, that the employee’s educational background corresponds directly with the scope of the sponsoring company. This means that to work as an engineer in Indonesia you must have an engineering degree. The government is also asking applicants to prove they have prior work experience—ideally five years—in their prospective position. This is all to be confirmed by a competency certificate or a letter of reference from a previous employer.

Not only are these changes a significant concern for Indonesia’s popular English-teaching industry, which routinely hires graduates from different fields, but also for current KITAS holders and skilled labourers without formal qualifications, such as those found in the IT industry, for example. As a further measure of inconvenience, transcripts and certificates are required to have a Legalisir, or authorizing stamp from the educational institution, in addition to being a colour photocopy. Some companies have been successful in using locally notarized copies of these documents, but sources prefer not to go on record. 

Possible encouragement to hire locals

The application to secure your VTT must now also include details of a Tenaga Pendamping or Indonesian working companion. The idea behind this is that you are to train a junior Indonesian colleague throughout the course of your time in Indonesia with the view that they will eventually be able to replace you (in a professional capacity, of course). Practically, this is a notion which companies must at least pay lip service to in order to submit an application. Once all that, plus a mandatory HIV test, is in hand, it is up to the Jakarta immigration office to grant you a VTT.

The validity of your visa will depend on a number of factors, including the validity of your sponsor company’s labour permit, your passport expiration date, and what is less clear, the amount of time Jakarta immigration deems appropriate for your stay.

Generally, an initial one-year application may be approved for anywhere between 10 to 12 months, with no reasoning as to why the lengths vary.

A recent study by Deloitte Indonesia says that the fourth and fifth KITAS extensions also now need approval from the regional immigration office, whereas previous extensions only required approval by the Directorate General of Immigration. Deloitte says no official mention of an Indonesian test or TOIFL has so far been required by those currently applying for a KITAS. However, Indonesia’s Manpower Minister M. Hanif Dhakiri recently said the language regulation would take effect in February.

Dessy from Indosight believes a language proficiency test for foreigners might be the government’s way to encourage companies to hire locals instead of expats. For companies looking to hire foreign workers, she says it’s worthwhile for incoming firms to partner with local companies that have a hiring infrastructure already in place. “It’s not so complicated to set up actually,” explains Dessy.  “We can help companies and foreign workers enter Indonesia in a safe and compliant way.”

The group of anonymous HR officers speculate that all these changes may be a result of the recent events that took place in one of Indonesia’s international schools. They were hesitant to make predictions looking into the future.


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