Wednesday, 21st December, marks the launch of Indonesia’s new second home visa. The new visa category was announced by Acting Director General for Immigration, Widodo Ekatjahjana, in late October, who confirmed that the final details were being put into motion. While the development received plenty of positive feedback, many international residents living in Bali raised concerns that proof of funds required to apply for the visa would cause havoc with their retirement plans. Bali residents have also voiced their fears that the visa could lead to overdevelopment in tourism hotspots across the island.
Now, expatriated retirees living across Indonesia, many in Bali, have written an open letter to the Department of Immigration and Central Government to ask them to re-evaluate the implications the new policy could have on people already living out their retirement in Bali. In the letter published on Indonesia Expat, the group raised the heartfelt point that “Indonesia isn’t our second home. It’s our first and only home”.
Transitioning from the current retirement visa options to the second home visa puts many existing and prospective retirees in a quandary. Many of the concerned retirees who put their contributions into the letter have already fully invested in living in Indonesia for the rest of their lives. Some contributors shared they have no other home to go to, having sold assets in their native country to invest in building a life in Bali.
For a considerable number of those affected, Indonesia has already been their only home for well over 20 years. Examples range from people who ran businesses in Indonesia or worked as teachers all across the country. While others have visited multiple times a year for the last three decades before moving over full-time. Many retirees feel they have little meaningful connection to the place they were born, having built their adult life, family, and community in Indonesia.
There is a feeling that many of those affected by the change are living on carefully calculated budgets informed by the sureties that a retirement KITAS or KITAP provides.
The second home visa has been touted as a way to boost investment and development in Indonesia, yet, those affected have shared how this move feels counterintuitive for a huge number of people who have already invested their life savings into the country.
Suggesting that the key criteria to invest in Indonesia have been met, but now the parameters have changed. Since those impacted are in their retirement, they cannot rejoin the workforce or generate more funds. Moving back to the country where they were born, like Australia or the U.S., would be incredibly difficult.
The sticking point highlighted in the open letter is that a new second home visa requires that applicants transfer IDR 2 billion (USD 130,000) into a state-owned bank account. These funds must stay untouched in the account for the duration of the visa stay, which is just five or ten years, depending on the application.
Those behind the letter state that if the visa policy remains as it is, they will have no other option than to withdraw their current investments in Indonesia and desperately search for another place to live. Not only would this put them under incredible financial pressure and a huge amount of stress, but it would also drastically impact the communities they support.
Contributors to the open letter shared, “we will lose our beloved staff, our community of Indonesian friends, and the many projects we’ve supported over the years. Some of us have Indonesian foster children and extended families. Many have plans to lease land long-term, build houses, and travel domestically, but all of these will depend on what happens with the visa categories.”
Speaking at the press conference launching the second home visa in October, Ekatjahjana told reporters, “the target of this policy is foreign tourists who have money to enjoy their old age coming to Bali and other destinations in Indonesia. This is a stimulant policy given by immigration in the midst of economic recovery and a dynamic global economy”. While the visa is also a targeted effort to bring in high-wealth investors and entrepreneurs, at its core, it seemed that the second home visa was intended to support retirees.
The spokesperson for the Directorate General of Immigration, Wachid Kuntjoro Djati, told reporters that the teams behind the new visa policy had made decisions based on having the most positive impact on the tourism sector.
The new visa officially opened for applications on Wednesday, 21st December. In a statement to the press, the Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly said, “through the Directorate General of Immigration [we] will provide new facilities for global investors who want to stay longer in Indonesia i.e. Visa and Second Home Residence Permit or second home visa.”
“This policy is backed by the phenomenon of foreign migration to Indonesia with various purposes and activities, one of them is to live in Indonesia because of the natural charm and friendly weather compared to the country of origin already. In addition, because geographically and potential natural resources and economic resources that Indonesia has so [foreigners] can develop business and investments here”.
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