July 31, 2023
JAKARTA – Even for well-traveled Indonesians, having a passport is just the first step toward traveling abroad. They still must take the time to apply for visas for a number of destinations, even for short visits.
Muhammad Rizki Hadi Putra, 31, had planned to go on a six-day vacation to Sydney, Australia, with his wife in mid-August.
He had prepared everything from buying plane tickets and making hotel reservations to applying for an Australian visitor visa online, which cost him some Rp 2 million (US$132.3). But his visa application was rejected.
For Rizki, who is self-employed in the property business, the rejection came as a surprise because he had been to Europe, Japan, South Korea and several ASEAN countries for vacations and business trips since obtaining an Indonesian passport in 2014.
“I was disappointed because it was the first time I applied for a tourist visa and got rejected because of insufficient funds. Perhaps I was suspected of intending to overstay,” Rizki told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
He said he lost around Rp 15 million in the process, as his plane tickets and hotel reservations were nonrefundable.
The latest Henley Passport Index, released by British immigration consultancy Henley & Partners on July 18, found that Indonesians enjoyed visa-free entry to 70 countries and destinations. This put the country, along with Tunisia and Zambia, at 77th on the index, which ranks 199 countries based on the number of destinations its citizens can visit without a visa.
Despite being the largest country in Southeast Asia, Indonesia’s passport strength is overshadowed its neighbors.
Singapore has the world’s most powerful passport this year. It allows visa-free entry to 195 global destinations, surpassing that of Japan.
Malaysia, meanwhile, ranked 11th, tied with Liechtenstein, with visa-free access to 180 destinations, while Thailand ranked 68th, on par with China, with 80 visa-free destinations.
Timor-Leste, a young country hoping to enter ASEAN this year, ranked 59th with 94 visa-free destinations.
Fathin Pangestu, 28, a private worker in Jakarta, went to Italy for a four-day business trip in June. He applied for the visa and was approved in about four days.
Still, Fathin felt that having to apply for a visa for such a short visit was too time-consuming and potentially costly. He had to make hotel reservations and purchase plane tickets in advance as proof of his intention to travel and return despite the uncertainty over whether the visa would be approved or not.
“As a salaryman for a company dealing with imported products, business trips abroad are quite frequent. And it’s very stressful if we have to take the time to apply for a visa,” Fathin said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, for leisure travel, Fathin chooses ASEAN countries because of the low barriers for entry.
All ASEAN member states allow Indonesian passport holders to enter visa-free.
Ratih Islamiy Sukma, 38, a freelance translator in Yogyakarta, recently had her visa application to visit a friend in Australia rejected. She had applied online, thinking the process would be easier, but got the bad news about a week later.
“I was disappointed, even my friend wondered why my application was rejected,” she said on Thursday.
But she said it probably worked both ways, that foreigners applying for Indonesian visas might face similar issues.
When asked about the Henley passport index, the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s director general for immigration, Silmy Karim, said countries considered several factors when granting visa-free visits.
These included “[security] risk factors, diplomatic relations and economic relations”, Silmy said on Thursday, adding that he hoped more countries would consider granting Indonesian passport holders visa-free entry in the future.