Indonesia has a certain “magic” that manages to draw in many citizens from around the world to call this tropic wonder their home.
Whether it’s love at first sight during a two-week vacation, growing compassion for the country’s beauty and possibilities within a two- to five-year work contract, or hearing captivating stories from friends who have visited, there are endless reasons to support Indonesia as an idyllic haven.
“We have lived in and loved the beautiful Bali for over 10 years,” shared Judith W. Another long-term expat shared to Indonesia Expat of his first visit to Bali and other Indonesian islands dating back to 1988. “Over the next 25 years, I travelled to and worked in many countries, yet Bali remained my choice for my retirement home. The people, culture, and natural beauty captured my heart and soul,” he said.
Plenty of foreign retirees share four points in common aside from calling Indonesia their “heart home”: they love Indonesia, they’re under retirement KITAS or KITAP visas, they find ways to help their Balinese friends and neighbours, and most of all, they’re concerned about their future and wish to not leave.
Chairperson of the Sub-Coordinator for Promotion of the Bali Tourism Office I Ketut Yadnya Winarta on Friday 16th December told Kompas.com that many foreigners in Bali are heavily concerned about possible deportation due to not fulfilling requirements for a new second home visa. He advised immigration authorities to provide clear information dissemination for foreigners so that there is no confusing information.
“There shouldn’t be immigration movements to give a warning to those who don’t understand,” said Winarta.
Meanwhile, the representative of the Directorate General of Immigration Wachid Kuntjoro Djati said that his team guarantees every policy made will have a good impact on Indonesian tourism.
“With regard to the second home visa policy, we agreed to carry out clear socialisation,” said Djati.
About the second home visa
In December 2020, the government announced that a limited-stay visa for foreigners without the need for employment or marriage was under consideration. This included foreign elderly tourists, with that wording removed from the rules and replaced with the language referring to “second homes”, according to the website of the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy.
The Directorate General of Immigration at the Law and Human Rights Ministry explained the second home visa is “a type of visa that can be chosen by foreigners who wish to live in Indonesia for five or 10 years and not work. The policy is based on government regulation no. 48/2021 which aims to make it easier for international elites or world investors who wish to observe business potential and arrange investment permits to be developed in Indonesia.”
On 25th October 2022, the second home visa policy was officially issued and stated in circular number IMI-0740.GR.01.01 of 2022, concerning the granting of visas and limited stay permits for second homes. This is set to take effect 60 days after the circular letter was issued. Foreigners using this visa can stay and carry out various non-work activities such as investment, tourism, and more.
To apply for the visa, applicants need a valid passport, a recent colour photograph, a curriculum vitae, and to deposit Rp2 billion in a local bank account. This sum is expected to be under an account owned by the foreigner as an immigration guarantee and must be held with a state-owned bank, such as BNI, BRI, Mandiri, or BTPN. The foreigner must open their own account and cannot withdraw the funds until their residence permit expires. As a substitute, they can also attach a luxury property ownership certificate, written by immigration on their official website.
Voices of concern from Indonesia’s foreign retirees
Indonesia’s foreign retirees are distressed, especially regarding the proof of funds requirement. These foreigners have left everything behind to move to Indonesia in good faith of being able to live out their lives. The main issue with the proof of funds is that not many people are ready to put Rp2 billion aside, untouched, and have already put assets into houses and long-term land contracts.
C, a long-term expat, is one of the thousands of retired foreigners calling Indonesia their first and only home, not a second home. “Our roots are deep here,” she said. Like so many others, C fully expected to live out her life in Indonesia and has nowhere to go if the new policy forces her to leave.
Throughout her 22-year stay in Indonesia, she has met the many requirements to obtain a KITAP and even built a small house on land leased for her lifetime. “Our foreign community has supported our Indonesian neighbours through bombings, volcanic eruptions, and the pandemic, raising money for emergency supplies and services, continuing to pay salaries, buying locally, donating sembako, paying school fees, and supporting projects and programmes where we live,” she said.
Another person who wished to remain anonymous explained that the requirement for most retired foreigners to maintain Rp2 billion in a bank account for the duration of their visas is “concerning and disappointing”. She only moved to Indonesia during the pandemic, where she learned about Indonesia’s wonderful essence, particularly choosing Bali as her retirement destination after being trapped in Vietnam.
“My decision is based on the understanding that Indonesian values are focussed on respecting the elderly. I also learned from students, parents, and other teachers that there was great appreciation for foreigners, especially those who are retired, who helped some Indonesians survive financially during the pandemic,” she said.
KG came to Indonesia 23 years ago and worked on a KITAS as a teacher for 15 years. “I could have earned more money in other countries, but I fell in love with Indonesia and it became my home. When it came time to retire, I had no doubt to stay here,” she said. KG has already paid for a long lease on her home thus, switched to a retirement KITAS, and after four years to a KITAP, which expires next April.
She understands that retirees will have to transfer onto a second home visa or switch to a visa with a shorter stay limit that could lead to people going on visa runs. “These changes are causing huge worries and insecurity for me and many of my friends. I’d always assumed I’d be able to renew, but now it seems it won’t be possible,” she added. Her savings are tied up in investments that provide a regular income but mean the capital isn’t accessible for a good few years. Even if it was accessible, she continued, the interest rate the government bank is offering is well below her current earnings to cover her living expenses.
A long-term expat echoed KG’s sentiments. “My financial planning for my retirement has been ongoing for the last 30 years and has been structured to provide me with a monthly living allowance. I can provide documentation for the Rp2 billion but I cannot move it out of my investment accounts overseas without a large financial penalty,” he explained.
Older foreigners, now in their 80s and 90s, have lived in Bali for decades, contributing to the local community. “We have so much gratitude for Indonesia’s care and kindness. In return, we have provided much-needed income and care to many Balinese families,” said a 74-year-old anonymous expat who has lived in Bali for the past 12 years with a KITAP.
“I was assured that Bali welcomed older Australians,” he said. After selling his house in Australia, he moved to Bali, contracted land, and built a house in Ubud to live in for the rest of his life. The retirement visa supported this decision. “I employ local staff in my house and they have become family. My house will go to my Balinese friends when I die,” he said. Without the lump sum to put into a bank account in order to change to the second home visa, he stated he would have never sold his house in Australia to finance his move.
Judith W and her husband are on permanent KITAPs. Their assets are now in Bali with no other home or possessions to fall back on. “How can we, 84 and 76 years old, possibly leave and go somewhere else with nothing?” she questioned. Domestic travel plans are also hindered. Chris F, who recently discussed with his visa agent to obtain his retirement visa early, is distraught.
A letter to the Indonesian government
Below is a compilation of suggestions and expressions of a desire to not leave Indonesia complied from several interviewed foreign retirees:
Dear Indonesian Government,
Countless foreign retirees believe as long as we could support ourselves, we’d be welcome here. We would be grateful if existing KITAS and KITAP holders are allowed to remain and live out our remaining years in our chosen communities. However, the worst-case scenario will leave us with no alternative but move on from Indonesia, the country we all love and call home.
Please reconsider this type of visa, and explore other options for retired people, who also often have financial obligations in their own countries in a world that has not eliminated COVID-19 and its variants. With that goal in mind, and with the understanding of retirees’ other financial requirements, they welcome the Indonesian government to find a way to allow foreigners to remain in Indonesia without such a large financial requirement. Perhaps the government could consider allowing current retirees to continue with Retirement KITAS or even to transfer to the second home visa without the financial component.
Are all foreigners considered rich? As a 66-year-old Australian living in Bali for almost a decade expresses, commence the second home visa with the Rp2 billion guarantee but make it for new applicants – they say that it’s inhumane and grossly negligent to make it retrospective. They suggest leaving those retirees that are currently legally retired in Indonesia alone. Expats will stop investing in Indonesia, particularly Bali, as not many retirees are prepared to deposit the sum.
Most of us agree that existing retirees can be grandfathered under a system that simultaneously runs with the second home visa on a reasonable timeline. If we all leave, it will cause much economic hardship for the families we employ and the restaurants, services, and shops we utilise regularly.
Not to mention, we will lose our beloved staff, our community of Indonesian friends, and the many projects we’ve supported over the years. Some of us have Indonesian foster children and extended families. Many have plans to lease land long-term, build houses, and travel domestically but all of these will depend on what happens with the visa categories.
The new second home visa has a place, and is a good step forwards, but why strip current retirees of their rights when most of them aren’t able to switch? We all feed money from abroad into the local economy and have done so for years, but we can’t access what’s required. It isn’t only us who’ll suffer.
Will we eventually have to leave our homes and friends here to return to the country we were born in? Some of us grow weary of worrying about it. We pray that the Indonesian government will continue to support us with visas that allow us to continue living here. Some of us are in the process of considering our options in case the worst happens and there’s no other way to stay in Indonesia. There will be no stone unturned to try and find a way to stay here. Indonesia isn’t our second home, it’s our first and only home. We have nowhere else to go. The thought of starting again in our elderly years is too much.
We have spoken to visa agents but were only to “just wait” as they are waiting for directions as well. The waiting is horrendous. The lack of clarity and the utmost uncertainty is difficult.
Hopefully, we can raise awareness of the foreign retiree community’s hardships and can reach the ears of those responsible within the government, as well as a response of clarity about what we can expect to happen soon. We understand the government has a responsibility to care for Indonesia and its citizens, but how could retirees leaving benefit Indonesia?
Foreign retirees residing in Indonesia