December 13, 2022
JAKARTA – After years or decades of living in Indonesia, thousands of foreign retirees have just days before they expect to find out whether they can remain in the country.
The government launched in late October a new type of stay permit, the second-home visa, with the stated goal “to attract foreign tourists to come to Bali and diverse other destinations”.
That is where the confusion begins, as the authorities conflate foreigners spending a holiday in the country with those spending the rest of their life here.
The Immigration Directorate General celebrated the move by hitting a gong in Bali, but many foreigners spending their retirement on the island were in no mood to celebrate, because the new visa will do little to help them once their current stay permits are canceled.
“Foreigners can conveniently apply for a second-home visa through a website-based application,” says the English press release on the directorate general’s website.
That is all dandy, but then, among innocuous requirements like a passport and recent color photograph, it mentions the need to have Rp 2 billion (US$128,000) in an Indonesian state-owned bank, or equivalent assets.
The rules require elderly holders of temporary stay permits (KITAS) or permanent stay permits (KITAP) to transition to the second-home visa, or meet the same proof of assets requirement, but the financial requirement makes that impossible for most of them.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a country seeking to draw well-heeled individuals to its shores. Other countries also keep their doors wide open for the affluent from around the world. Malaysia, for example, offers Malaysia My Second Home program to foreigners wanting to live there for 10 years, provided they earn 40,000 ringgits ($9,000) per month and pay 1 million ringgits as a deposit.
For many foreigners considering settling down in a tropical country with relatively low living costs like Indonesia, it may still be an attractive proposition, despite the required proof of funds. It is clear the second-home visa was drafted with them in mind.
It is not a sinister plan to get rid of the foreign pensioners currently living in Indonesia. Rather, the latter have simply gone under the radar as the government devised the new rules.
While not generally rich, many of the retirees living in Bali, Lombok, Jakarta and other places have lived in, loved and contributed for a long time to their country of choice.
Their commitment to the country goes far beyond financial considerations, but even if the government was to assess their value in monetary terms alone, let us run the numbers:
If someone has lived in the country for two decades and spent a relatively modest Rp 100 million a year, that already adds up to the very Rp 2 billion the new visa requires. And that is not money simply parked in a bank here, but money actually put to use for the benefit of the local economy.
A sense of panic has taken hold of the foreign pensioners’ community just days ahead of the Dec. 24 deadline when the new policy takes effect. They are waiting anxiously for a government response to let them stay in a country they deem not their second home, but their only home.