9/7- It’s my job as we move from country to country to check out the visa requirements, and verify whether our T-Mobile phone service has coverage (we don’t make many calls, but rely on the GPS to get around). It may be a sign of travel fatigue, but I thought that we could stay in Indonesia for 90 days, similar to the last two countries we visited, Malaysia and Singapore. This turned out to be incorrect, which we realized as we got off the plane in Bali and stood in the Immigration line looking at the signs warning all that stays over 30 days require a Visa on Arrival. We had already booked our onward flight, so we knew we would be in Bali for 37 days. Oops.
Instead of entering on the 30 day free pass that U.S. citizens are entitled to, we had to purchase the $35.00 USD per person Visa on Arrival before proceeding through Immigration. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to bring the exact amount of cash – if you require change, it will be given in Indonesian rupiah at a poor exchange rate. We thought we had solved the problem, after explaining to the nice Immigration officer that we needed an extra 7 days and giving him money. He still only gave us a 30 day visa. What do we do for the extra days? You need a Visa Extension. Can we purchase it here today? No. Where can we purchase it? At the Immigration office. Isn’t this the immigration office? Not this office. Where is the office? Out there (with a definitive dismissive gesture, indicating the conversation was over).
When we got to our guesthouse in Sanur, we researched and discovered that lots of people stay in Bali for more than 30 days, and that the process is very doable but quite cumbersome, requiring three separate visits to Immigration. Evidently, according to many online sources, tourists used to hire an agent to do this for them while they snoozed on the beach, but you now have to go to the office at least once yourself for photos and fingerprints. For the benefit of other bloggers who wish to extend a visa in Bali, here is what we did. For couples, remember that you each need your own set of document copies – no sharing allowed! Be sure to start the process at least one week before your 30 day visa expires.
- Make 2 copies of your passport photo page and the page containing your Visa on Arrival, with payment receipt. You will turn one set in, and should keep the other, as you will be without your passport for up to a week.
- Make a copy of your onward flight information to prove that you intend to move onward.
- Prepare a letter from a Balinese sponsor (that says you are a tourist and will not stay to work). We found a form letter online at expat.or.id and asked the nice lady at our guesthouse to fill it out, which she was happy to do. Before she could sign it, however, we had to find and purchase a 6000 rupiah stamp (called a meterai) for each letter at the Post Office. She affixed the stamp to the bottom of the letter and signed over the stamp. We’ve read that others just provided hotel info in lieu of the letter, but we didn’t want to chance it, as the requirement may differ depending which office you visit.
- Initial visit – Arrive early at the Immigration Office. They handle passport and visa stuff from 8am til noon. Dress appropriately – knees and shoulders covered. We saw some guys in shorts, but read that some offices will turn you away if dressed for the beach. Hint: the office is not air conditioned.
- Make sure you go to the correct Immigration Office. Our sponsor letter showed a Sanur address, and we went to the Tuban/Kuta office near the airport. The official reviewing our papers looked at our sponsor letter and told us we needed to go to the office in Denpasar. We showed him that our current address was the hotel right down the road in Tuban, so he let us stay.
- If your documents are in order, you will be given a form to fill out, and a red folder to hold your documents. The form must be filled out in BLACK INK. Bring a pen with you – there were none provided at the office we visited. The form is straightforward, and can be completed using the info from your passport, sponsor letter and current address. It also asks for your home address, phone and email.
- Go to the machine and take an A number. Just like the Motor Vehicles office, you then sit in a big room and wait for your number to be called. The official checks your documents, takes your passport, and gives you a receipt with instructions on when to return. We were given a return date two days after our first visit, and instructed to come between 8 and 11am. Our initial visit took about an hour. Put the receipt in a safe place, as you need it for your next visit.
- Second visit – We arrived just after 8am, produced our receipts and were told to go to the machine and take a B number. Just as our number was called, the computer system went down and everybody stood around for a half hour. Eventually we were referred to the payment desk, where we paid 355,000 rupiah each (about $25), and were each given a C number. This number was for photo and fingerprints. We waited again. When this task was completed, we were sent back to Counter 03, where we turned in our papers and received a receipt and a return date of another two business days hence. As it was Thursday, our return date was for the following Monday, which means we would be chillaxing here over the weekend, which was not part of our original plan. Luckily, we are staying at the Aston Inn Tuban, which has the world’s greatest pool and breakfast buffet, so this is not a hardship for us.
- Final visit – check your receipt for the hour you are scheduled to return. We assumed it would be in the morning again, and made plans to leave our hotel that we had to amend when we realized we had to go back at 2pm. Produce your receipt and turn it in to the nice man at Counter 03, and wait for your name to be called. After a 10 minute wait, we signed for and were presented with our passports, updated with a Visa extension granting us an additional 30 days beyond our original visa. Success!