My husband Rob and I have lived in Bali since March 2016. We made the beach town of Sanur our permanent home at the ages of 51 and 52. Years of holidaying in Bali had convinced us this was where we wanted to live…the culture fascinated us and the welcoming community of expats and locals enticed us.
Plus, the low costs meant we could give it a go long before official retirement age. But as with any move to another country, we had bureaucratic hoops to jump through—and Indonesia offers more than its fair share. The most critical question was probably “what visa to get?”
The Retirement Visa
Indonesia offers a retirement visa officially called ITAS LANSIA-Retirement Temporary Stay Visa (lansia stands for lanjut usia). You have to be 55 years old or older to get this visa and the initial cost is less than $1,000 (and around $800 to renew).
One condition of this visa is that you must hire local staff, such as a housekeeper or a gardener. It’s not a burden having to do this—in fact it’s one of the perks of living in Bali—and it’s not expensive. A housekeeper for six hours a week costs as little as $28 and a gardener to maintain your outdoor area costs $15 for three hours. If you’re lucky enough to have a pool, maintaining it is very affordable. For $30 a month, your pool will be sparkling clear.
The retirement visa allows you to live in the country permanently, and along with a Multiple Exit and Re-entry Permit (MERP) you can exit and enter as often as you like. Just remember to ask for a MERP when you apply for the visa, otherwise you have to remain in Indonesia for the first 12 months. A MERP allows you to come and go as you please without voiding your visa.
Your retirement visa also allows you to open a local bank account and hold an Indonesian driver’s licence.
After five years in Bali with this visa, you’re eligible for a KITAP, or Permanent Stay Visa.
It’s important to note this visa doesn’t allow for employment of any kind in the country—not even volunteering. You’ll need proof of sufficient funds to support you while you’re in the country.
Specifically, you’re required by law to have an income from pensions or investments of around $1,915 per month per person or a lump sum per person of around $23,000 per year.
Other requirements are:
- Proof of valid medical insurance.
- A domicile form, to prove you are living in Bali. Your rental agreement must state a monthly rental over $380.
- A passport with more than 18 months’ validity and at least six blank pages. You will need to provide a photocopy of each page.
- Sponsor letter (if you don’t have a sponsor, you can use an agent who will provide one)
- Passport photos with a red or white background (check before getting photos as the background colour requirement changes regularly)
It’s fairly easy to find an agent. The best way is to ask around as every expat has their own experience to share and it’s good to use an agent who comes recommended.
A reputable agent will not suggest shortcuts and you should be wary of any that do.
The Social-Cultural Visa
As Rob and I don’t yet qualify for the retirement visa, we remain on the social cultural visa (Sosial Budaya) for now. We are required to leave the country every six months and on re-entry are issued with a visa which allows us to stay in Bali for 60 days and can then be renewed a further four times once a month.
Basically, this allows us 180 days in Indonesia before having to repeat the procedure.
We’ve found Singapore the easiest place to visit for our visa renewal. Once there, it’s easy to find an agent to handle your application. It’s possible to do this on one day, as long as you fly out early and return on the last flight. Alternatively, stay overnight and explore Singapore.
The social-cultural visa is relatively easy to organise and it’s a good idea if you’re coming to Bali for a long stay as it allows you time to look around and find somewhere to live. A more expensive alternative is the 30-day visa upon entry, which can be extended for another 30 days.
To apply for the 60-day Social-Cultural Visa before leaving Australia, visit the Indonesian Consulate website for details.
You’ll need a passport-size photo, your flight itinerary and evidence of funds to support your time in Indonesia. The cost is $70 per person.
If you are not able to apply at an Indonesian consulate in person, you will be required to post your application, including your passports, to the consulate for processing. Once in Bali, you can organise to have your next Social-Cultural Visa extended to a total of 180 days, as mentioned previously.
The Social-Cultural Visa is perfect if you’re under 55 or unsure how long you’ll spend in Bali.
However, if your mind is made up, then the Retirement Visa is for you.
The 4 Steps to Getting the Retirement Visa in Bali
1. Once you’re in Bali, work with your agent to prepare the necessary documentation. The agency will review everything and process your application at the local immigration office. Allow two weeks for approval.
2. Once your application is approved, a telex visa is sent to an Indonesian embassy abroad. You can do this yourself but using an agent in the country you’re visiting is much simpler. They will arrange to meet you on arrival and take your passport to the embassy. Once the visa is completed, they’ll hand it to you and you can return to Bali. (Like I say, we find Singapore is by far the easiest location.)
3. When you return to Bali/Indonesia, your agent will convert your Retirement Visa into a Retirement KITAS and make it official. A KITAS is your limited stay permit, not the same as a KITAP, which is your permanent stay permit).
4. Within 30 days you will have to visit the local immigration office for fingerprints and a photo and you’ll have a yellow card placed into your passport confirming your visa has been granted. Without this final process your Retirement Visa is not valid. In addition to the KITAS, you’ll receive a certificate of registration of temporary residency (SKPPS and SKTT), a police report (STM) and a police card (SKLD).
The great bonus of a KITAS is the benefits you receive:
- You can apply for a local driver’s licence.
- You bypass all the long queues at the airport.
- You’re entitled to discounts for electricity and water of between 5% and 10%.
- You can be treated by local doctors and hospitals (otherwise you will be charged fees higher than normal). Medical Insurance is still advised, however.
- You can open an Indonesian bank account and apply for credit.
Beware the Exit-Entry Rules
Many Retirement Visa holders have been caught out by the requirement of an exit and re-entry permit. If you wish to leave Indonesia for any reason you will need to apply for a Multiple Exit and Re-entry Permit (MERP), valid for 12 months. This allows you to exit and re-enter as many times as you wish. At a cost of $100 for one year, or $175 for two years, this gives you peace of mind in case you need to leave for emergencies.
It’s best to organise this permit when you apply for your Retirement Visa. In essence, the permit tells the authorities that you may leave the country from time to time but you want to come back. Without the MERP, when you return to Bali you’ll be forced to begin the whole process from scratch.
As mentioned earlier, after five years you’re eligible for a KITAP, a Permanent Stay Visa for foreigners living in Indonesia. Applying for the KITAP is detailed and I recommend using an agent to ensure all of your bases are covered. It can take eight to 12 weeks to process and can cost up to $4,500, although costs do vary.
Once approved though, the benefits are great:
- A five-year valid stay permit
- A two-year valid MERP (the travel permit)
- An Indonesian ID (KTP, 5 years valid)
- An Indonesian driver’s licence (SIM, 5 years valid)
- Obtain bank accounts, credit cards and even loans
- Get local prices when booking 4-5-star hotels.