Panic, confusion over second-home visa sweeps expat community in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Dec 12 (Jakarta Post/ANN): Foreigners who have lived in Indonesia for years or decades are anxious about new visa rules that will kick in later this month, which require retirees to hold substantial funds in the country.

The government has issued a circular telling holders of retirement stay permits to convert to the so-called second home visa, but many in the expat pensioners community say they do not have the assets needed for the new visa type and worry about their future.

“Immigration officers are uncertain how to interpret the new regulations, which increases the stress on people seeking accurate information,” said Russell (not his real name), a 72-year-old Australian retiree living in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.

According to Immigration Directorate General Circular No. IMI-0740.GR.01.01/2022, released on Oct. 25, the new policy around the second home visa is to take effect on Dec. 24.

The new visa type requires proof of funds amounting to Rp 2 billion (US$128,000) in a personal account in one of Indonesia’s state-owned banks or proof of luxury property ownership in the country, neither of which are easy requirements to fulfill for most pensioners.

“What’s going to happen for me is I’ve made my life [in Bali], and on Dec. 24, if they announce these are the rules, then I’m just going to euthanize my dogs, and then I’m going [back to Australia] to euthanize myself,” recounted a 58-year-old pensioner from the United Kingdom called Charles (not his real name) about the troubling plan of an Australian pensioner he knows.

Many of the foreign retirees say they have nothing and no one back in their country of origin and insist that Indonesia is not their second home, but their only home.

They lead a life of calm retirement, living on monthly pension payouts with no substantial funds in any bank. Previously, the elderly had two options, namely a temporary stay permit (KITAS) and a permanent stay permit (KITAP), with the former requiring proof of funds amounting to Rp 280 million, which is but a fraction of the Rp 2 billion needed for the second home visa.

According to the circular, KITAP and KITAS which are still valid for more than 180 days from the enactment of the circular will turn invalid, requiring them to change to the second home visa.

“It is upsetting for many that the Indonesian government is preparing to cancel retirement permits that have already been issued prior to their expiry date,” said Russell.

“The changes are causing unnecessary stress for people who have been living in Indonesia for, in my friend’s case, 26 years, and who do not have the funds required to deposit to obtain a second home permit,” he added. Despite the spurring panic, the government has been laying low after releasing the circular.

On Tuesday, Immigration Directorate General public relations subcoordinator Achmad Nur Saleh told The Jakarta Post to “be patient” and wait for the launch of the new visa on Dec. 21, leaving unanswered widespread questions about details of the implementation. The rationale behind the proof of funds requirement appears to be a government effort to draw more money into the country from pensioners looking to spend their retirement in Indonesia, seemingly with little concern for those already in the country.

Not one of the three relevant government institutions — the Immigration Directorate General, the Law and Human Rights Ministry or the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry — provided any answers to the Post’s inquiries. Unlike the KITAP and KITAS, the second home visa will reportedly allow foreigners to invest in Indonesia, but it remains unclear in what capacity they will be allowed to earn money and how that will be taxed.

“No one anywhere on any of the social media, or my agent, or anyone else’s agent, or even the Immigration [office] has any clear information […]. I haven’t heard anybody who can clarify [the regulation],” said 66-year-old Australian retiree Jennifer Beeston.

Regardless of what will happen by Dec. 24, Beeston said she has all the intention to stay. With the second home visa in place, Beeston would be left with no choice but to stay in Indonesia on a tourist visa, which she would need to renew every two months at a cost of Rp 3 million.

“I won’t leave; I love Indonesia; I love Bali. […] I want to live peacefully here. I’m not a tourist, I don’t act like a tourist. This is my life here,” said Beeston, emphasizing that it was a big decision to move to another country.

Beeston said she understood what the Indonesian government was trying to achieve with the second home visa, but added: “I think they’re sacrificing an important demographic,” referring to many pensioners who are planning to leave the country for a more pensioner-friendly destination, such as Thailand or the Philippines.

The figure of foreign pensioners in Indonesia is hard to ascertain, but one Facebook group called Bali Retirement Group alone has 2,800 members.

Beeston said: “It’s like they’re throwing the baby out with the bath water,” emphasizing that, with the enactment of the regulation, many law-abiding pensioners who had been contributing to the economy by spending their retirement money in the country would leave.

“I fully respect countries’ autonomy to be able to make up their minds about what they want to do, what they have to do. But, at the end of the day, there may be consequences,” said Charles, explaining that many retirees did not plan for [the rule changes] and did not have the money, given the sudden enactment.

“It’s not really our job as foreigners to criticize the government. I have a lot of respect for countries that choose to make up their laws. […] Whilst I respect the laws, I guess what I’m doing is pleading with the Indonesian government to have a look at the amount that they’re asking for,” he added.

A 72-year-old retiree from the US wishing to be referred to only by her initial “D” recounted how she went for a short trip to Bali on a whim in 1990 after going through breast cancer and nearly dying from a complication.

“I’d been eliminated from my very good corporate job. I was spiritually lost, destroyed, decimated,” said D. “I’m healing here, I’m a much better human because I’ve lived here – what I’ve learned from Indonesians improved me. I have truly met and know some of the most beautiful people in the world – Indonesians,” she added.

Like most of the pensioners, D said she had no place to go, no other option but to live here, the way she had done for the past 22 years.

However, much like many pensioners, she would be left with no choice but to leave under the second home visa requirements. – Jakarta Post/ANN

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