Visa and permits, Finding a Home,
Car, Domestic Help,
International Schools, Universities
and Scholarships, Setting
up your Bank
Account, Tax, Learning Indonesian and understanding
New: download your free copy of Living in Indonesia
and Long Stay Permits
If you decide that Indonesia is the place to enjoy your retirement, or
if you have work to do in Indonesia,
make your preparations carefully.
Indonesia is not an immigration country and the immigration
complicated, cumbersome and costly.
One of the most important
documents to arrange is the visa. Details of the admission
are available through the Indonesian embassies and consulates.
You will need to demonstrate that you have a sponsor in the country
(your employer, for example) and a regular source of income.
Over 57 year olds are offered the possibility to obtain an
annually renewable visa with a
validity of 5 years.
A word of caution: don't enter the
country on a tourist visa, expecting that
it can be converted into a limited stay visa. You will risk to be
With your first visa, the next step is to obtain a temporary stay (and
If you are going to work in Indonesia, usually your employer will
arrange all the paperwork with the Home Department.
But if you have to take care of the
process yourself, be prepared that it is exhaustive and complicated.
Professional help through one of the agencies, specializing in these
kinds of activities is almost essential.
Work permits, known as KITAS are valid for one year.
A new immigration bill now allows
foreign spouses of
Indonesian nationals to obtain a residence and work permit too.
Finding a Home
Gradually more professional real
and brokers set up shop in the major cities, such as Jakarta,
Bandung and Surabaya and they will be happy to find you a house or
an apartment. Newspapers, including the
English language dailies carry advertisements for homes for rent.
The more regular way of renting a house is through local, usually
unofficial agents. It is an accepted form of brokerage, but a word of
caution is needed. Put all the promises the agent makes in a contract
and have it legalized.
The custom in Indonesia is to rent a house for one year, sometimes
for two or three years. When the contract expires you are supposed to
vacate the house. If you prefer to renew the rent it is best to put an
option in the first contract. It should explain that you
will have the right on renewal and that the broker is not allowed to
offer the house to another interested party without your consent.
Even so, bring up the subject with the broker well before the
Brokers usually will
be happy to make repairs during the first month after you move in.
From then onwards you will be responsible to pay for all repairs, be it
a broken water pump, a leaking roof,
a collapsing wall and so on (almost all roofs in Indonesian houses
walls usually remain firmly intact).
Buying property in Indonesia is fraught with regulations and
limitations. Any great property offer should be viewed with suspicion.
Very often foreigners are lured in shady contracts stipulating that the
'purchase' is in fact a lease.
Buying a Car, Driver's License
The process of buying a car in Indonesia is not much different from
that in other countries. Either you buy a secondhand
vehicle directly from the owner or through a dealer or you buy a new
car. Cars in Indonesia are relatively expensive as they are heavily
The price difference between a new car and a second hand is not too
Buying the car is the easy part, the ensuing paperwork of renewing
licenses, and paying taxes will
cost you many unhappy hours.
By far the best alternative is to use the services of
the car dealer who will do the dirty work, known as
balik nama (changing the
owner's name) for you for a small surcharge.
When you happen to move from one city to another the license plates of
your car will need to be changed. In other words, your car needs to be
re-registered in the new location and carry the local license plates.
This process is known as
mutasi (mutation) and is
not very cheap.
always in Indonesia there are services available to do the work for
you, such as standing in line and filling out forms.
An important preparation before
renting or buying a car is to
ensure that you have a valid International Driver's License. When it expires you need to renew it
abroad or obtain an Indonesian driver's license.
common procedure for the Indonesian license is to have an agency, or
your office take care of the formalities. If you have time, you may do
so yourself by contacting a
police officer at the police station and to express that you would like
to have a driver's license.
Depending on who you have contacted the process may be cumbersome and
long or quick and neat. In some cases you only need to show up to have
your photo and fingerprint taken. Other essential documents to complete
the process are your passport, visa and work permit.
Driver's licenses for foreigners are valid for one year only.
Living in Indonesia without domestic help is a contradiction in
Newly arriving expatriates sometimes are reluctant to contract a maid,
a driver, guard or a gardener reasoning that domestic work exploits the
local human resources.
Reality is that unemployment in Indonesia remains a problem.
Unemployment goes hand in hand with low levels of education. Therefore,
hiring domestic staff definitely helps
reduce the unemployment problem.
The major part of the wages
of your domestic helpers will most likely find their way to relatives
in faraway villages where it helps to keep children in school,
improve homes, pay for medical needs and help the relatives survive.
In several cities there are official employment agencies for
domestic staff and you are required to pay at least the local minimum
Usually domestic help will be available for 24 hours and 7 days a week.
An alternative way to find staff is through recommendation from other
expatriates, neighbors or co-workers.
Most domestic staff don't speak English. Patience and a sense of
relativism and humor will go a long way in establishing a good working
Whatever happens in your relationship with domestic staff, don't ever
shout at them. Your staff will lose face and, just as important, they
will appreciate you less and less, because with every emotional
outburst you will be loosing face too.
The test whether your staff are happy to work for you is when they
Idul Fitri break or stay
away and never get in touch again, not even to collect their severance
When the employment is terminated, whatever the reason, employers are
required to pay
severance to the amount of one month's wages for every year of
Culture requires that employers also pay for their
soap, toothpaste, lodging and so on. Before Idulfitri employers
bonus of a additional month's salary, a new shirt and allow the staff
their relatives for at least one week (please pay for their
The Indonesian Neighborhood
When you settle in and have unpacked all the boxes and the crates, it
is time to get used to your domestic staff (and they to you) and to
ensure that you register yourself and your family at several
During the Japanese occupation, the Japanese armed forces
introduced different neighborhood levels. This system is still
Starting from the bottom there is the RT (which stands for
RT is a group of up to 100 households, headed by a leader, known as
kepala RT, or more
affectionately Pak RT. Pak is
Bapak, which means both
Father, Dad and Sir. Pak RT needs to know who is
living in his RT and, in the case of foreigners, for how long.
Shortly after arrival visit
Pak RT, show your passport
and explain who you are, why you live here, at which address and for
Pak RT usually also wants
to know the names of your domestic
staff. He will give you a simple note, signed and stamped. With this
note you report to the next higher level, which is the RW (short for
RW is composed of a number of RT and it is headed by the
Kepala RW . At the RW level
you will usually find an office with clerks. Instead of
Pak RW, the clerks will do
the processing. Once again you will receive a note, stamped and signed.
You will need to pay a
registration fee too.
The note from the RW office is required to report to the
Kecamatan or sub-district
level. Here again you are charged a registration fee.
If your office is not equipped to do all the registration
formalities, depending on the level of education of your domestic
staff, they may do so at the RT and RW levels on your behalf, but you
must personally fulfill the registration at the
In many cities you will find
international schools. The most
common are the schools with an American curriculum. But there are also
British schools, Korean schools and Japanese
schools and even a Dutch school (in Jakarta). Not all
international schools provide classes until college level.
Most international schools are now called Intercultural schools.
A growing number of private Indonesian schools provide a curriculum
that comes close to those of the international schools, such as
Sekolah Internasional Ciputra
in Surabaya. These schools are
popularly known as "plus schools".
Teaching occurs in English and in Indonesian. These schools offer a
viable (and economical) academic
Go to the Links page for a list
of international schools.
Universities and Scholarships
It is possible for foreign students to
study at an Indonesian
university. All over the country there are hundreds of universities to
some well known and many small and unknown. In our Links
section we feature a list of the most popular universities.
Be prepared to come to the country with a scholarship.
There are very few opportunities to obtain a scholarship in Indonesia. The most popular is the Darmasiswa scholarship
program, offered through
the Department of Education. Darmasiswa is a non
grade program to study
at Indonesian universities and colleges.
The program offers a choice of
Indonesian languages (Indonesian, Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese),
dances, music, and singing, theater and shadow puppet play, photography
traditional crafts such as batik making.
Setting up your Bank Account
If you need to set up your bank account, you'll probably be dazzled by
the number of banks in Indonesia.
There are many domestic banks advertising their services. Very few seem
target expatriates, but an increasing number of banks provide US$
All local banks have facilities for online banking.
In the major economic centers there are several international banks,
banks are on our Links
The process to open an account is very easy. All you need is your
passport and your KITAS (stay
permit) and a first deposit.
A drawback of the Indonesian banking system is that banks do not provide
There is no escape: foreign residents have to pay income tax if their stay in Indonesia exceeds 180 days.
Not all employers
withhold all due taxes from your salary. Therefore, sit
down with HR and have all the intricacies explained of Indonesia's tax
Ensure that you receive proof of payment.
If you are self employed, you will have to make all arrangements with
office yourself or use the services of an agency, such as Okusi
The only foreign residents who are tax exempted are those holding a
visa or a service visa (Visa Dinas).
Learning Indonesian and Understanding Indonesians
Anyone who stays in Indonesia for more than just a few weeks should
make an effort to speak Indonesian.
Most Indonesians, especially the younger generations will do their best
to speak English.
You may run into groups of youngsters who ask you lots of questions
practice their English.
Nevertheless, most Indonesians only speak their local language plus
Indonesian and nothing else.
If you make an effort to speak Indonesian, even if you don't
master the complexities of the grammar, everyone will sincerely praise
your mastery of the language and even help you to improve it.
There are many language schools in Indonesia that offer courses for
just a few weeks or up to two months.
Most of those institutions are in the major cities in Java and in the
But learning the language is not all. Even if you speak Indonesian but
understand the mindset of the people you will be in for many
breakdowns. Investing in an inter-cultural program before you fly to
is a wise decision.
A language test in Bahasa Indonesia may be a prerequisite to obtain a work
On the Links page you will find several options for language
courses and links to inter-cultural
this site with a Friend