Over the years I’ve had lots of people ask how to go about staying in Bali for six months or more, or long-term stays in Indonesia generally, with respect to a visa.
Nowadays Bali especially is seeing a huge influx of foreigners looking to save by renting an apartment or house by the month (or by the year!) and work on a project, start an online business or simply take an extended break. My aim with this article is to remove visa-related question marks as barrier to doing this.
The Sosial Budaya, or Social Visa is the answer. Costing approximately US$60 in 2012 depending on where you apply, it allows you an initial stay of 60 days, then is extendable every 30 days for about US$25, up to a maximum stay of six months without having to leave Indonesia. A stipulation with the Sosial Budaya is that you must apply for it while you are physically outside of Indonesia. You also need a letter of invitation from an Indonesian citizen. This is simpler than it might sound.
I’ve applied for quite a few Social Visas in several cities around the world, so I might be in a position to elaborate, but I must emphasize that my info is current through 2012. Please check online with the Indonesian embassy through which you’ll apply for current information. Interestingly, different embassies sometimes have different application forms and slightly different requirements.
Bonus Tip #1: Even when the process seems clear on the embassy website, I always call first to confirm that I understand exactly what I’ll currently need. This has saved me time and money in the United States for example, where you’ll find you must apply to the Indonesian embassy closest to your permanent address.
The Sosial Budaya or ‘Social Visa’
In 2012 residents of most countries can get a 30-day ‘Visa on Arrival’ (VOA) stamp at the airport, which is extendable once for a maximum stay of 60 days. It requires no arrangements in advance. If you’re new to Indonesia you might be inclined to get a VOA initially, and once you’re here you’ll undoubtedly make the acquaintance of Indonesians who might provide you with the letter of invitation you’ll need for a Social Visa.
Once you have a brief invite letter and you’ve decided to stay longer, you can apply for the Social Visa yourself and save money. In my experience, expressing a desire on the application and in the invite letter to visit Indonesia for extended travel and to visit friends is enough reason for the authorities to give you one.
If you’d like to have a Social Visa in hand when you first arrive in Indonesia, there are travel agents who will handle everything for you before you leave home. Check the Bali Advertiser online or the print edition if you’re in Bali, but do shop around because prices can be exorbitant. You might email my friend Denny at email@example.com. Over the years he has helped me and many friends with Social Visa applications, as well as visa extensions once in Indonesia.
After either your 60-day stay in Indonesia on your VOA (or up to a 6 months’ stay on the Social Visa for that matter), you’ll be obliged to leave the country, but if you fly to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, etc. you can apply for a(nother) Social Visa immediately.
Practically speaking, since you have to be outside Indonesia to apply for the Social Visa, you’ll most likely spend 3-5 days in a city with an Indonesian embassy to apply for another one, depending on the city in which you apply. Just Google ‘Social Visa’ and the city to which you’d like to pay a visit, to check the length of time it will take to get the visa there. It is normally a two- or three-day turnaround.
Bonus Tip #2: Be aware that outside of Southeast Asia, the process will take longer if you aren’t a citizen of the country in which you apply. It’s another reason why it is imperative to call ahead.
I check Air Asia‘s website well in advance for cheap flights leaving on Monday (much cheaper than Sunday usually), as early as possible, so that I can get to the embassy to which I’ll be applying that same morning. By applying on Monday I can usually have my visa in hand before the following weekend, and avoid paying to stay longer while I wait for the visa.
Ultimately the Social Visa/Sosial Budaya is a terrific way to stay in Bali for longer stays, or to do some serious travel to other parts of Indonesia entirely. In an archipelago this far-reaching and varied, spending even six months would be just a start!
If you have any further questions, please ask in the comments below. If you found this article helpful, please Retweet it. And, if you’d like boots-on-the-ground info about getting started as an expat in Bali, you should sign up for my free E-Guide, below: