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

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. Rules change over time. It is worth a call.

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.

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

  1. Hi Tom, I am living in the US and am wantingto mmove to Bali at thend if the year, looking to stayfor a year. II’m thinkinga social visawould be best. You were saying thatwe must apply outside of Bali,but is thatsonethisomething I would do herein the US or onlyin Singapore. Also, I am looking to get a small job while there. Would I be ableto work on the social visaor is thatallowedunder something else? Thank you!!

  2. Hi Jaclyn— Well first, you definitely cannot work in Indonesia on a social visa, it is a visitors visa and employment is definitely not allowed.

    You certainly can get a Social Visa in Singapore, but you do need an invite letter from an Indonesian. Unfortunately my friend Sinta, who I list in this article is moving to another island and will no longer be available to help people with Social Visas. If you search the Internet you might find an agent here in Bali who will be able to help you with that before you leave. I hope that helps Jaclyn.-Tom

  3. Hi Bryan, sorry for the delay in answering, I am well behind on answering my comments. I haven’t gotten a VOA in a long time so I can’t tell you for sure that it’s just one visit for your VOA extension, but I think an acquaintance of mine who recently did extend mentioned he was in and out in one day. I hope that helps.-Tom

  4. Hi Louise and thanks for your comment. Sorry about the delay in answering, I have fallen behind in answering my comments. The Social Visa is a single entry visa so no, if you leave you must apply for a new one or come back in on the VOA. I hope that helps.-Tom

  5. Hi Tom,
    I’ve been looking around for a long time for good visa-information and by reading this, it’s finally clear to me. Thank you!
    One more question: If you want to extend a social visa more than one time, do you have to do that in the same place every time?
    Caroline

  6. Hi Tom,

    I am wondering how many times you are able to apply and be granted a social visa for Bali. I have a good Balinese friend who is happy to write the invite/s for me but I am wondering if I can only get one and then have to resort back to a VOA. Do you know how long I can keep getting Social visas for and whether I can get back to back Social visas, provided I go to Singapore for a new one each time??

    Regards

    Dave

  7. Hi Girish— Well, Immigration will count the days and unfortunately there will (probably) be a fine if it adds up to more than 60 days. In my experience partial days count as a full day. In the past it has been US$20 per day per person but I don’t know what it is now. Good luck to you Girish.

  8. Hi Caroline — I just checked this with the person who handles my extensions; she said for Social visas extensions must be done in the same place each time. Makes it awkward if you’re doing a big tour of Indonesia. You could leave your passport here w/someone to do extensions for you (it’s a hassle to go to the Immigration office 3 times–per extension!) but traveling around and trying to check into hotels, etc. without it would present another bunch of problems.

    Off the airplane you do get 60 days until your first extension— maybe a way to do it is to get your traveling in at the beginning of your trip? Not really a good solution either, 60 days isn’t that long to explore a place like Indonesia..

    Hope all that helps.

  9. Hi tom, I’m just wondering if I had a social visa for bali are you able to leave bali on that visa, for example if I wanted to go to Thailand or Australia, and if so how many times can you leave? I ask this because I am doing a 5 month course in Bali and my friend is coming with me, so the course is granting me a letter for a social visa but we are not sure how she would be able to get a social visa so I would want to leave the country with her for a visa run if I am able?

    Thank you

  10. Hi Henrietta– Social visas are single-entry, so if you leave you have to get another one or come back on a VOA. Best might be if she could find an Indonesian to invite her too. The course admin might be able to help you if you ask. Good luck there.—Tom

  11. Big Mahalos for all the info Tom… I leave for 5mos in Bali in just 2 days and I’ve been trying to figure out this VOA situation super last minute…

    Can you recommend your favorite budget airlines to do a visa run? I hear tickets are cheaper when purchased from within SE Asia.

    I also have the same visa renewal questions as Dave above whom I guess you emailed…. if I can get a cheap apartment and make my money stretch I’m planing to stay as long as possible. Thanks for all your help! ~Od

  12. Hi Od– Air Asia all the way, Singapore is usually cheapest, book as far in advance as you can! And you can get multiple Social visas over time if that’s what you’re wondering too. Good luck to you.

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