Dozens of media outlets across the globe have recently run stories about the Indonesian government “officially approving” a digital nomad visa that will enable holders to “work in the country tax-free for six months.”
This is a strong indication that Indonesia is increasingly recognizing the economic benefits of attracting remote workers and formulating immigration policy to reflect this. The tourism industry of Bali — the most popular destination among digital nomads — has welcomed the news, with the head of the island’s tourism agency saying “we have to embrace this opportunity.”
However, the latest media reports are based on comments made by Indonesia’s Tourism Minister, Sandiaga Uno, and an official statement is yet to be released by his ministry or more importantly, the Directorate General of Immigration under the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. During his weekly media briefing on September 12, Sandiaga said that the best visa for digital nomads in Indonesia is the existing B211A visa, and that holders could visit the country and work for up to six months. This visa category is known as the socio-cultural visa (sosial budaya in Indonesian), as its purpose is to enable holders to conduct activities such as research, language learning, or volunteering. Sandiaga’s statement suggests that the terms of the socio-cultural visa will be expanded to include remote work, though he didn’t go into detail during the briefing.
The following day, Sandiaga shared a short video on his Instagram feed about digital nomads in Indonesia, explaining that over 3,017 entered the country from January to August this year with the socio-cultural visa.
“With a visa that is valid for 2 months and can be extended for 6 months, I am increasingly convinced that the number of foreign tourists who are interested in staying in Indonesia will increase and will automatically have an impact on economic revival,” the video’s caption read.
Contrary to media headlines, the Indonesian government has not “officially approved” a new digital nomad visa, and again, it’s important to note that the immigration department is yet to make an official announcement about the possible expansion of the B211A visa terms. When the international news agency Reuters contacted the immigration department for a story on the topic, it declined to comment.
Despite the lack of clarity so far, we still see this as a very positive sign that Indonesia is serious about making it easier for remote workers to live and work in the country.
Since early 2021, Sandiaga has repeatedly stated that Indonesia is formulating a new visa category specifically for remote workers, which would allow holders to stay for up to five years without paying local taxes if income isn’t earned within the country. During a press briefing in June he said that discussions had entered the final stage, and the latest round of media reports mention that these discussions are still continuing.
The head of Bali’s tourism agency, Tjokorda Bagus Pemayun, told local media in July that “the implementation of a visa specifically for digital nomads is essential. The faster it can be implemented, the better considering the number of digital nomads in Bali is quite large.” He stated that between 2020 and 2021, there were 6,000 foreigners in Bali, and the majority of them were digital nomads.
For other indicators of the government’s commitment to responding to the remote work era, see the “Work From Bali” section of our post “How Has Bali Changed During the Pandemic?”.
Another encouraging sign regarding possible changes to visa policy is that Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo (known locally as Jokowi) recently stated that he has received many complaints about the difficulties of obtaining limited stay permits (KITAS) and wants the immigration system to “change completely.”
In a meeting on September 9, Jokowi noted that complaints had come from investors, tourists, and foreigners trying to access the KITAs visa. “It’s difficult. This has to be changed completely. The motive should be to make it easier. If you need to change the Director General [of Immigration], replace everything below so we understand that we are changing. If we want investment to come, tourists to come, all must be changed,” he said.
We will update you as soon as an official announcement has been made by the immigration department regarding the possible expansion of the socio-cultural visa or the five-year digital nomad visa.
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