A Social Visa For Long Stays In Bali, Indonesia: What You Need To Know

by Tom Mullaly

in Early Retirement,Featured Posts

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 denny_warly@hotmail.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:

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda 01.14.13 at 7:00 pm

Such a helpful article, Tom! Thanks for this!

My husband and I are currently in Bali (in the Seminyak area), and we’ve totally fallen in love with it. We have more countries we want to visit on this particular trip, but we’re definitely talking about coming back here in the future for a long-term stay!

Whereabouts are you on the island, btw? :)

Tom 02.02.13 at 4:18 pm

Hi Amanda– glad you enjoyed the article! I’m in the US at the moment, do drop me a line the next time you visit Bali; I live in Seminyak.

Hey I’m very impressed with Girls Guide to Webdesign btw. Happy travels!

Ben Ayriss 03.07.13 at 2:52 am

Hi Tom, great article. I wondered if you could put me in touch with someone who could help me with a social visa I tried the email address quoted above but haven’t had any joy. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Ben UK

Amanda 05.06.13 at 1:08 am

Hey Tom!
This was a very helpful article!
Im gonna apply for a socicla visa with my indonesian boyfriend as a sponsor and I was just wondering what to write in the letter of invitation. I’ve tried to google for examples on a sponsor letters but cant seem to find any good ones. So I was hoping maybe you could help me.

Amanda from Sweden

Amanda Holst 05.19.13 at 1:07 am

Awesome post.
I have recently decided to go against the norm and be free of all ties, in other words, I stuck it to the mann, left my daunting studies and quit my 9-5 job.
I´m vegan and love my fruits so moving to Bali would be ideal. Thank you for your great advice :)

Erika 06.22.13 at 4:18 am

I have a question for my sister in law. Her and her daughter just moved there to stay for a year. Her daughter is enrolled in the International school. She said she was told that once she gets her visa, she can’t travel out of Bali until the visa is up. We were hoping for them to come visit us over the Christmas vacation. Is it true they can’t travel outside of Bali during the visa? If her visa expires in December, can they come to us for 10 days and then go back and get another 6 month visa? I thank you in advance for your time and expertise!

Taylor 06.29.13 at 1:11 pm

Hey Tom, I am moving over to Bali for the rest of the year in two months. I am just trying to work out my visa things, when I asked my friends to do a visa letter apart from the fact that he has an expat spouse and her parents already covered by his name they said that getting a social visa is not what I should get, because when I am there I will propably move around a bit and visit Lombok and nusa lambongen. I was just wondering if you know that my sponsor has to know where I will be all the time? And if I have to stay in the one spot? Thanks heaps

Michael Powers 07.06.13 at 8:12 pm

Hi Tom – Can you extend the VOA for the additional 30 days from Bali or do you have to go to the mainland to do the 30 day extension?

Amy 07.10.13 at 8:23 pm

Hi Tom,

Just wondering, what do you know about getting accommodation for 6 months to a year in Bali? What sort of cost would one be looking at?
Cheers
Amy

Meg 07.16.13 at 7:42 pm

Hi Tom,

We are looking at moving to Bali in 2014 with our two teenage boys.
Could our sons go to school in Bali on a social visa?
Any information regarding this would be great.

Thanks

Meg & Greg – Australia

Nora 09.05.13 at 5:38 am

Hi Tom. We were told that immigration hold onto your passport while on a social visa so emergency travel is not possible. Do you know if that is true?

Tom Mullaly 09.05.13 at 5:42 pm

That is absolutely not true. Don’t worry, you definitely get to keep your passport.

Now, when you are extending your visa they will keep your passport with them at the office by the airport for a few days or however long it takes them to process your monthly extension. Still, one time while I was getting my extension I had to leave in a hurry and I was able to go to the office, get my passport and leave that morning.(If it was a weekend it might be difficult…) Good luck.

David Gallo 09.11.13 at 9:32 am

Thank you very much, Tom! This allows me to plan a stay in Indonesia.

Terry 09.15.13 at 3:59 am

I have been badly scammed in the past so I am probably (unhealthily so) somewhat wary about being scammed again: once bitten twice shy etc. . You state that you are currently resident in Bali and yet the email address to which I must agree to subscribe is in the USA. So I guess I’m a tad confused. I am a 65 yo male in the process of moving to Bali as a pensioner and value all your comments in your blog.
Thank you.
Terry

Alan 09.22.13 at 5:56 am

Hi Tom, enjoy your articles – very informative.
Is it possible to communicate with officials in Bali if you only speak English?
My wife and I are considering staying more than a few months and we will probably need to extend our VOA, do the Visa run etc and then maybe apply for a longer Visa.
Alan, Australia

Tom Mullaly 09.22.13 at 8:21 am

English is sufficient Alan, absolutely.

Tom Mullaly 09.22.13 at 8:23 am

You’re welcome David, best of luck!

Tom Mullaly 09.22.13 at 8:40 am

Hi Terry, yes the email connected to my auto-responder (the tech mechanism through which Bali on the Cheap is delivered to you) is connected to my Hotmail account. I am based in Bali but I have no email address connected with an Indonesian email provider, so I have little choice.

The auto-responder asks you to opt in twice as a way of ensuring to Aweber, the company I use to handle e-guide sign ups, that people who ask for the guide actually want it, to avoid spam. I’ll have your email address, but I’ve never (yet)emailed people on my list, and at any rate you can opt out from me ever emailing you in the future with one click.

Do enjoy Bali on the Cheap if you do decide to get it Terry.– Tom

Heather 11.06.13 at 12:15 pm

I appreciate it for posting “How to Stay Long-Term In Bali | Long-Term Stays In
Indonesia | Social Visa | Wage Freedom”. Imight surely end up being back again for more reading and writing comments soon enough.

Thanks a lot, Jenifer

Mark 11.09.13 at 11:10 am

Hi Tom

My girlfriend and I recently returned from a holiday to Bali and we’ve fallen in love with the island and it’s people. We’re now looking to see if it’s possible to spend a year or longer there as we have nothing keeping us back except money (we plan to save up over the next year or two). Anyway, your posts are a great inspiration and help. I have just one question (I may have more at some point sorry)…

Is it possible for a non Bali resident to buy a house? The villa we stayed in was owned by a French guy so I was just a bit curious how you’re not allowed to officially live there long term but somehow this guy has land and a house?

Many thanks
Mark

Tom Mullaly 11.09.13 at 7:27 pm

Hi Mark, nice to hear you had such a good experience in Bali!

Let me preface this by saying that I am not any lawyer-or ‘notaris’ as they are known in Indonesia-but I do have some idea of how the process works if you’re a foreigner who would like to have a long-term presence here. The rough sketch is that the person on the title of the property you purchase will be must be an Indonesian citizen. There is a by now well-worn path that is used by expats to control property though, in which several documents are signed which essentially give the foreigner control over the property, i.e. to make improvements, and even to eventually sell it. Again, you would want to talk to different people who have done this to first find a reputable notaris — just a title search in Bali can be very complicated as there are often several people on the title to a property.

Keep in mind too that long-term leases, up to 20 or 30 years in some cases, are very popular as well.

Being in Indonesia for long periods isn’t too much of a problem in practice. A residence permit–or KITAS–is an option, and there are visas that allow you to spend quite a bit of time here as well, such as the retirement visa if you’re over 55, business visas, as well as the social visa.

Hope that helps Mark.

Zeshan 11.23.13 at 7:20 am

Hi Tom,

I am an Indian, I fell in love with an Indonesian girl. And I want to marry her and live in Indonesia with her. Can you please provide some assistance i.e. what kind of documents will be required and the procedures,.. So that I can live peacefully in Indonesia with her.

Thanks.

Tom Mullaly 11.23.13 at 9:11 am

Hi Zeshan — well I think the first step is to come to Indonesia and talk to a professional who can advise you on the procedure for getting married here. I won’t attempt to do it in a blog comment, sorry. The good news is that it appears that Indians are on the list of countries whose citizens can get a visa on arrival (VOA) upon entry to Indonesia (see the link below). It looks like you will need an onward or return ticket however. Good luck to you Zeshan.

http://www.embassyofindonesia.org/consular/voa.htm

Jack Donaldson 12.04.13 at 2:59 am

Tom so many thanks for this really helpful incite. A question if I may. I have an option to work remotely for an online company and thinking of staying in indoneisa for around 25 days each month, heading back to the UK.. Having kids and family there and then coming back and round 4 days later and getting another VOA.. Would look to rent a place in Indonesia too.. The Company is from the UK and I would be working and selling to NON Indonesians and all monies to me and from clients goes to UK. could this as an option be considered. ? . Doing the math.. including the flights each month and the rental in indonesia it seems like a do able option! any thoughts?

Kumar 12.11.13 at 11:42 pm

Hi Tom,

It’s great info. I stayed in Indonesia as expat(96-01) and since then I have been feeling to live in there again. Do you have any idea how the program of “Indonesia my 2nd Home” works ? Any reliable agent can help? Thanks.

Tom Mullaly 12.12.13 at 1:00 am

I think you’re thinking of the ‘Malaysia my second home’ program. I don’t think Indonesia offers anything with a name like that, but there are many options for staying long-term. Any agent would be able to lay out your options; many of my friends are on the ‘Social Budaya‘ or social visa. Good luck!

Fred 01.29.14 at 9:33 pm

Can US and Canadian citizens apply for Social Budaya while in Bangkok, through the Bangkok Indonesian embassies? Currently in SE Asia already and it would be really inconvenient and expensive to have to return to the US/Canada to apply at the Indonesian embassies there…

Tom Mullaly 02.04.14 at 10:48 pm

Hi Fred and thanks for your comment. Yes for an American (I’m quite sure Canadians too) getting a Sosial Budaya visa in Southeast Asia is no problem, at least in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, where I’ve done it.

FYI and for future reference for anybody reading this comment,for Americans in Europe it can be a real problem, though not impossible, to get an Indonesian social visa. At the Indonesian embassy in Paris they actually had to call an Indonesian embassy in California(!?) to approve the social visa they eventually issued me, and it took a couple of weeks.

But yes for you Fred, long story short the Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok to get you sorted out no problem.

Anneli Wagner 02.12.14 at 6:58 am

Hi Tom,
thank you very much for the helpful article. I am currently applying for an internship in Bali and thinking of staying there for more than six month. Travelling to another Asian city for some days wouldn’t be a problem, but I am wondering about the letter of invitation. Probably it will have a date written on it, so do the embassies accept a letter that is already more than half a year old? Or do you need a new letter every time you apply for a new visa?
Thanks in advance,
Anneli

Tom Mullaly 02.12.14 at 7:20 am

Hi Anneli — good news for you, the Sosial Budaya visa doesn’t require an invitation letter anymore, At least it didn’t for me in San Francisco in October of 2013. I would call the Indonesian embassy closest to you there in Germany and ask; the bottom line is that without needing the letter of invitation the social visa became easier than ever to get. Good luck and I’d love to know what you find out if you can drop me a line.

Pamela Bedford 03.02.14 at 6:03 pm

Hi Tom,
Very informative site. I am a 62yr old Australian pensioner looking to live in Bali for approx. 5 to 6 months of each year due to Dr sending me off to warmer weather. Wanting to meet up with other Aussie seniors living in Bali or find a group or share accommodation.
Can you help?
Pam

Tom Mullaly 03.02.14 at 8:10 pm

Hi Pam— The Bali Advertiser is still a great resource for so many things, take a look at these two links to get you started. There’s is a huge variety of expat organizations and community groups here:

Expat organizations: http://www.baliadvertiser.biz/articles/feature/2013/expat_organizations.html

Community groups: http://www.baliadvertiser.biz/community_groups/page01.html

Adrienne 04.09.14 at 2:48 am

Hi Tom,
I have just received my sponsor letter for Sosial Budaya..however my sponsor has written it in Indonesian, as I’m applying for it in Australia (my home country), would that be a problem, or should I get it translated to English?

Tom Mullaly 04.09.14 at 4:14 am

It should be in Bahasa Indonesia Adrienne, it’s going to the Indonesian embassy. No translation needed.

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