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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 baiqsinta123@gmail.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 baiqsinta123@gmail.com. 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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83 thoughts on “A Social Visa For Long Stays In Bali, Indonesia: What You Need To Know

  1. Hi Tom,

    I am currently in Seminyak on holiday and return on home on Sunday. I am thinking of moving to Bali and would love to meet you if you are available and willing to meet up for a chat and a coffee before I leave as I have quite a few questions about how to go about such a move. I apologise for the short notice, but I have only just come across your article and obvious wisdom in this regard. I am staying at the Puri Saron Hotel and can be contacted there – 361 731007 (room 4202), or via this site. I’m afraid my mobile phone is having a few issues with connection here, so it’s currently out of service. I am very grateful that you have posted this information – obviously a moment of serendipity in light of my current thoughts on improving my lifestyle and my life-long love of this heaven on earth. Cheers, Tiffany (Swinton)

  2. Your references for getting a visa was very enlightening , I have been to Bali many times, any leads on say renting a unit/town house ? I usually stay at kamikaze plaza ( expensive ), although 2 years ago did rent a town house ” kata royal ” for au$600 per month it was good and cleaned daily.
    Regards Michael

  3. Hi there– I’m planning a trip to Thailand in November then leave after 29 day to go to Indonesia then Singapore then back to Thailand. Do i need any type of visa or will it be ok as I’m only there for 29 days at a time? Many thanks.

  4. For 29 days in Indonesia a visa on arrival (VOA) will work for you, no prior arrangements needed, just wait in the VOA line.

  5. Hi! I’m flying to Bali this October to be with my boyfriend who works there. I’m planning to stay there for a long time with him. Plan was to keep renewing my visa every time it “expires”. So please let me know if I got your post right….. I can extend my tourist visa for another 30 days? And then go out of Bali (say Singapore) to apply for a social visa (so i can extend for 6 months), and then go back to Bali? And then just keep on renewing this social visa? Your prompt reply would be highly appreciated! Thank you!

  6. As of Sept. 2014 that is 100% accurate! Just get with my friend Sinta if you need help with visa extensions/further questions.

  7. Hi, some forums mentioned that now the social visit pass (sosbud) does not have much advantage as compared to the 60-day Visa on arrival tourist visa and I noted that the application for sosbud visa requires more documents, i.e., from a local sponsor. Is there any particular reason that sosbud visa is better if you are planning to stay in Indonesia for more than 60 days? Thanks!

  8. Hi there Lisa, thanks for your comment. The difference is you’ll have to leave Indonesia after 60 days with the VOA, whereas with the Sosial Budaya you can stay up to 180 days. With the Social visa you just start your 30-day extensions after 60 days (start with your first extension after about 50 days to be safe).

    It’s true, the Social visa does require an invite letter from an Indonesian; if you’re extending in Bali they want to see that an Indonesian with a Bali KTP (ID card) has invited you.

  9. Hey mate great read! Got a funny one for ya. I’m wanting to live in Bali for 12mths with possibility of longer with my 6 yr old daughter. I don’t plan to work initially as I have saving to last at least the 12mths but wanted to get her into international school. I believe I need a sponsor and kitas visa, can I achieve this not working?

  10. Hi Tom, thank you for your informative article. We are British expat family with two young children living in Thailand and thinking of relocating to Bali for a year initally. What is the best visa route for 12 months? And how does immigration view digital nomads?

  11. I believe (since you said we have to leave after 60 days on a VOA) that we would have to show a ticket leaving Indonesia in 60 days. What about the social visa? Can we get the social visa without having to have a return ticket (a ticket to leave Indonesia in hand when we arrive in Bali).

  12. Hi David– I can’t recall being asked for an onward ticket when I come in with a VOA, but they could ask, so usually I have a cheap Air Asia ticket booked for some months out. Take a look at the prices, you can get DPS-SIN or DPS-KUL for US$30 or $40 if you buy months out. If you think you’ll stay 4-6 months that should be a very cheap ticket. Good luck David.

  13. One more. I gather Sinta is in Indonesia (ID)? I will call Ismail Hamdan in Singapore (SP) as you suggested as we plan to go to SP first anyway and then on to ID. If we arrive on a VOA is it difficult to “upgrade it to a retirement visa ” in Bali? That would probably be our first stop.. I would like to travel around a bit to decide where to live. On my last trip the city I liked best was Malang. I stayed in Bali one of the previous trips. However that doesn’t mean I would choose one of those. I have been to ID four times but just now retired from my job and am looking to live in ID now.

  14. Hi David — Yes Sinta is Indonesian, and has everything you need on her end. I just got back from Singapore, she gave me everything I needed and Mr. Hamdan’s office was totally efficient and friendly as usual. 11 AM at his office is the deadline, do bring 1 passport photo! Dhoby Ghaut MRT stop.

    Your plan sounds great, but one thing: if you see Mr. Hamdan in Singapore for one-day service for your social visa (Sosial Budaya) you won’t be coming in on a VOA I think, it will be the social visa. The VOA requires no pre-planning at all, it is just a stamp at the airport.

    I don’t know whether you have to leave Indonesia to process a retirement visa, but it will be a new visa, not an upgrade.

    Hope this helps David.

  15. Hi tom.

    Great info.
    Have you tried to apply for the social visa in kuala lumpur? I am.in bali now, and Considering to go there next week to get the social visa.

  16. I have, years ago. Fyi a friend of mine told me he was able recently to get his Social Visa in KL without going to an agent. Just get there early. Good luck and let me know if this is possible, if you find out please Sarah!

  17. Hi Tom,

    Firstly, great article! Cheers! I’ve looked into moving to Bali several times in the past, but until reading this I just didn’t think it was going to be that easy! I have visited Bali many times and have made many friends, so getting the letter would be easy enough via email, would that be acceptable? What kind of information must be provided? Also, how would you rate work opportunities in Bali for westerners (Australian)? Although I will have some savings, I will need to find work. Thanks for any advice.

  18. Hi i came to bali last month on a voa and i have just got it extended so at the end of the month can i fly to singapore and get another voa to enter bali? or do i have to apply for a different visa?

  19. Hi Teena and thanks for your question– yes you can fly anywhere outside of Indonesia before your VOA extension is up, and to be clear, you can get another VOA at the airport when you come back into Bali or elsewhere in Indonesia. It’s just like coming from Australia. I hope that’s clear.

    You wouldn’t have to do anything special in Singapore unless you want to get the Social Visa (Sosial Budaya), which lets you stay up to six months. For that you can contact my friend Sinta at the email in the article and she’ll help you.

  20. Hi there Hannah and thanks for your question– for a Social visa (Sosial Budaya) you can contact my friend Sinta at the email in the article and she’ll help you. She does the invite letter and the rest of what you need for free in the hope that you’ll let her help you with extensions (and if you don’t no hard feelings!).

    As far as work goes, the terms of the Social visa don’t allow you to work, but if you can find an employer here they can provide you with a KITAS, basically a work permit. It really depends on your experience I guess, and what you want to do. Good luck Hannah.

  21. Hi Tom,

    Thank you for all the information!!!
    My husband and I are looking to move over to Bali next year with our daughter (2 years old). We have some income here (Australia) that will keep us moving but we will need to earn out there also, we both work for ourselves (massage therapists) and so I am so confused as to what visa we would need to get, as we would look to work form home. I look forward to hearing from you!
    Sophs :-)

  22. Hey Brad, sorry for the delay answering. I don’t think you or your daughter need a KITAS for her to attend school in Indonesia. I used to assume you would but recently was talking to a friend here who’s son attends school outside of Ubud (loves it) and I know they are on Social visas (Sosial Budaya). You might contact a couple schools here to be sure. I hope that helps Brad!

  23. Thank you very much for your very useful information. I have been searching on the internet for a month how to stay long term in Indonesia. Even I have looked for volunteering. I could not believe. They want 600 dollars from the volunteer. Finally I found your site. Thanks god I know many people from there. I will ask them for an invitation. thanks again.

  24. Wow, I hope they aren’t asking $600 for a social visa. (If I understand you)

    You’re welcome Mehmet, good luck and I hope the article helped.

  25. Thank you so much for this information! What is the best visa for my family to get if I need to leave Bali often – at least once every other month if not every month.

  26. Is a limited stay visa the best way to go of you are planning on staying for at least a year? or do you have a better way?

  27. Thanks so much for providing this amazing service/gift!!!

    It there a limit/restriction to the number of VOA-visas one can get each year?

    For example, in our case, we might leave Bali each month = we would get another VOA-visa each time – or 12 VOA-visas – for each time we enter Bali. Would this be an issue?

  28. Hi Shelly– I do know a lot of people who use the Sosial Budaya/social visa to stay for longer periods. If you have the visa in hand you can stay for six months until you have to leave, so it is quite generous.

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