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, look into possibilities for making a base in Bali 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 an answer, and for many people it’s the best option. Costing approximately US$60 in 2014 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. You can Email my friend Sinta at email@example.com for more info on the Social Visa, and monthly extensions.
I’ve applied for quite a few Indonesian 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 2014. 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 2014 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.
Alternatively, 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 Sinta at firstname.lastname@example.org. She can help with Social Visa applications, even if you haven’t yet left home, 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. It is normally a three-day turnaround, but if you want to be careful, call the Embassy to which you’ll apply and ask for the current wait time.
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. For example in 2014 there is a 6:20 AM Air Asia flight to Singapore which will easily get you to the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore early enough to get your paperwork in. By applying on Monday I have my visa in hand before the following weekend, and avoid paying to stay longer while I wait for the visa.
Bonus Tip #2: If you are going to the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore to get your Social Visa, as of 2014 they will not let you in to submit your application if you are wearing shorts. They have discontinued the practice of renting sarongs for men and women deemed unfit for entry, and you will be told to ‘go home and get some long pants’.
Bonus Tip #3: 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. In Paris for example I waited for over 2 weeks for my Social visa, but it would have been worse if not for the incredibly helpful staff at the Indonesian Embassy in Paris going beyond the call of duty and helping me apply to the Indonesian Embassy in Los Angeles. As helpful as they were, I will make other arrangements next time. It’s another reason why it is imperative to call ahead.
If you’d like to avoid the conventional few-day ‘visa run’, a one-day turnaround for Social Visa processing is possible in Singapore. Ismail Hamdan is a Singapore visa consultant specializing in same-day service. I have used him myself. Taking an early-morning flight from Bali or Jakarta can land you in Singapore with enough time to make it to his office by the 11 AM cutoff. As I’ve already paid for a return flight ticket I always call his office in advance to check the most current procedures/costs to avoid problems:
Ismail Hamdan – Singapore Visa Consultant
Address: 190 Clemenceau Ave, Singapore 239924 (in Singapore Shopping Center across from Dhoby Ghaut Station)
Phone: 65 6334 5520
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 can get my e-guide ‘Bali on the Cheap’ for free by signing up for my newsletter, below. And don’t worry, I’ll only email you when I have something worthwhile to share.
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