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47 more nations to get visa waivers in Indonesia

Posted on September 28, 2015
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Encouraged by the positive outcome of the visa-exemption policy granted to 30 countries in June, the government announced on Tuesday a plan to waive visa requirements for 47 more nationalities, including Australia, in October this year.

The plan was announced following a meeting between Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, Immigration Office director general Ronny F. Sompie and representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the National Police and the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).

Minister Rizal said that the new measure was taken after the government saw positive results from the exemption of visa requirements for 30 countries in June. “The number of tourist arrivals from the 30 countries has grown by 15 per cent,” Rizal.

Speaking to reporters at the Presidential Palace following the meeting, Rizal said that 50 countries had been proposed, but three of them were later dropped because they were countries that experienced high numbers of drug trafficking cases as well as possible issues with radicalism.

Rizal also said he hoped to implement the policy in October to accommodate the tourism high season in December although some officials said it could only be implemented in January next year.

Tourism Minister Arief said that among the 47 new countries that would be granted visa exemptions were the Vatican, San Marino, India, Taiwan and Australia.

The government previously dropped the plan to waive the visa requirement for visitors from Australia amid turbulence in Jakarta-Canberra diplomatic ties.

Arief, however, said that the reason behind the cancellation was not due to political tensions between the two countries, but rather the fact that Australia applied a universal-visa scheme that required all people visiting Australia to possess a visa.

Data from the Central Statistics Agency showed that the number of tourists from Australia reached 1.13 million in 2014 or 12 per cent out of a total 9.44 million foreign tourist arrivals last year.

In July 2015, the number of tourists from Australia represented 11.54 per cent of the 814,200 tourists recorded in the month, or the second biggest contributor after Chinese tourists who accounted for 15.3 per cent of all tourists.

On June 9, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo signed the 2015 Presidential Regulation No. 69 on Visa Exemption to ensure that his recent decision to waive visa requirements for 30 nationalities could be implemented, despite the Immigration Law stipulating that visa exemptions could only be given on a reciprocal basis.

Under the new regulation, permits will be given for a 30-day stay in Indonesia, which cannot be extended or converted into any other type of visa.

The government has previously said it will keep pushing the 30 countries that have enjoyed the visa-exemption policy to also provide the same policy to Indonesia, at the same time playing down potential violations of the Immigration Law with the introduction of the visa-exemption policy.

Arief, however, said that so far only Japan had waived visa requirements for Indonesians, while South Korea was still in the process.

Separately, immigration director general Ronny said that out of the total 198 immigration checkpoints in the country, 14 checkpoints, including Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali and Sekupang International Port and Batam Center International Port in Batam were already capable of issuing visa exemptions.

Ronny said that the government was planning to increase the number of available checkpoints to 31 to cater to foreign tourists. He also said the ministry would increase the number of immigration-clearance counters and improve the online immigration system.

With the new policy imposed in June, the government has pinned its hopes on attracting an additional 500,000 to 1 million foreign tourists this year, bringing the overall target to 10.5 million tourists. The additional foreign tourists were also expected to provide an increase in foreign income of around US$1 billion (S$1.424 billion).

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