Is Australia a true friend of Indonesia

Visa Extension in Indonesia or: How Do I Bully Tourists?

It took less than a minute to get the 30-day visa for Indonesia upon arrival. But the extension of another 30 days is a real game of patience - oh, what do I say ... Out of line: How do I harass tourists? Our experience report with the immigration authorities in Manado in North Sulawesi ...

We are forewarned. We have been traveling through Indonesia for three weeks and since the first day we have asked every foreigner we have met who has been in Indonesia for more than 30 days for tips on how to extend the visa most smoothly. We followed them all: Despite the oppressive humid heat, we put on our best clothes. Long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt are important, sturdy shoes, just no flip-flops, no sun hat or anything that looks like an easy holiday.

At 8 o'clock in the morning we make our way from the small island of Bunaken to the "mainland" of Sulawesi, to Manado, where there is an immigration office that processes such visa extensions. Okay, that the boat leaves at 9.30 a.m. after waiting for an hour and a half, the authorities are not responsible for that. We have organized a driver through our accommodation who picks us up at the port after an hour's boat ride and drives us through the city to “immigration” for 30 minutes. Once there, a contact person is already waiting to make sure that we get on with it. Great!

We have all the documents together: passport with copies of the most important pages (personal details, current visa), copies of our next flight to prove that we really want to leave the country, two biometric passport photos. The officer even speaks a few words of English, hands us the application form over the counter and leaves a friendly impression.

We answer the impressive catalog of questions conscientiously: What job we have, what is the name of the employer, the address, telephone number, name and address of family members in Germany (including email address and telephone), why we want to stay longer in Indonesia, etc. .

Then it's time to wait, and we watch the first minor dramas: two Swiss people who were there a week ago and were standing in front of closed government doors because Idul Fitri, the end of Ramadan was being celebrated, are now being sent away again after a long discussion, because they are too early. You have to be in the country for three weeks to apply for an extension. An American doesn't want to see that he has to come again to be photographed ("Here I am. You can take a picture of me now"). Suddenly we are called by another officer. And then right away: The application may only be filled in with black ink, not with blue ink. Everything all over again. We humbly apologize, smile friendly and fill out the questionnaire again. And wait again. This time we join the queue of the friendly-looking officer who explained everything to us so nicely at the beginning.

But he also has something to complain about: Our reason for the visa extension. We wrote: We want to take a longer vacation and visit Flores, Komodo Island and Bali. We should definitely list Bunaken, where we are currently staying in a diving resort (which we have already stated as our current location anyway) and Manado should not be missing, after all, we are here at this minute and would have to come back, to receive the extended visa.

No problem, we will complete the information. The officer pulls out a brand new red folder in which he puts our papers and passports. We had already read about this folder on the Internet. We seem to have made it. But then he says: “Come back tomorrow so that we can take a passport photo of you.” We reply in a friendly manner that we already have the photos with us. No, that would not be possible today, the application must first be checked by the boss. We suggest adding the photos to the documents. If the application is approved, the photos are already available. It's great. "No, no, you can't. We have to take the photos ourselves. ”And the application has to be paid for. Tomorrow too. We suggest paying direct now. No, not until tomorrow. Can we take the extended visa with us tomorrow? No, you have to come again for that. In three days. And now, if you go, sit down and wait. He still has to give us a receipt that we have given him the passports.

Okay, don't get into an argument. We are waiting. Half an hour. Nothing is happening. The good man hides behind his desk and now and then looks bored and amused into the waiting room. Did we get it wrong with the receipt? Has he forgotten us? We don't want to annoy, but the officials' lunch break is getting closer. I make a new attempt, go to him with the passport photos in hand, hoping that he will take them and say we should come back in 3 days. But nothing there. Sit down and wait! And then come back tomorrow and again on Friday. But wait a minute. On the receipt. We wait another 20 minutes, then there’s the receipt and the announcement: Same job tomorrow and - if everything goes well - again on Friday.

Dejected, we take it that way, go out and call Ester from our dive resort, who, as a local, might be able to achieve something for us. She is amazed: That you should only come back to take pictures? No, she's never heard that before. “Wait, I have contacts. I'll call the head of immigration. "

We are confident. Ester has already bailed out many tourists and has always organized everything well. Will work out. Shortly afterwards she calls back: Nothing to be done, there is a new boss and new regulations. The authority boss wanted to personally check every application and our passport photos would not be accepted, they would be taken by the authority itself. We ask whether the boss can still look over the application today and then take the photos. “Don't mess with immigration,” Ester whispers to us. And gives us the advice: Better do what they want.

So twice again from Bunaken across the sea to Manado, through the congested city, in long Sunday clothes that make you sweat particularly well. Well fine!

To make matters worse, our driver has slipped away. Ester calls him. Wait another 40 minutes. We ask him to drive us to Manado's only computer store that sells Apple products in the hope of being able to give the defective MacBook for repair. With the words "Traffic Jam" he refuses. Doesn't even work with us today.

This fits in with the fact that the boat back to Bunaken does not leave until 4 p.m., one hour late. Time doesn't seem to matter.

It's getting dark again when we get back to the resort. And achieved nothing. What a frustrating day!

We explain to Sven, the owner of the dive resort, that we would look for a hotel in Manado so that we don't lose a whole day for every immigration trip. He tells us his stories of suffering with visa extensions. It doesn't help us, but it's nice to know that it's not just us.

In the late evening the surprise: Ester (Sven's Indonesian wife) tells us that she had called the immigration department again. The following offer: She would accompany us to the authorities in three days and make sure that photos and further processing of the visa would be done on the same day. Deal!

Three days later: Sunday clothes again, boat, driver, all our luggage with us and accompanied by Ester, who tells us that she has a friend at immigration who she has known for over 20 years. She doesn't know the new boss yet, he's only been in office for two weeks. On site, she first disappears with her acquaintance and goes to the head of the authorities. We are waiting. And wait. At some point we are called to the boss personally. After a little small talk, we ask the question that everything boils down to: What does the extension cost? Of course we know the official price: IDR 355,000 per person. He wants 1,000,000 for our two applications. Almost 300,000 extra. He calls it “coffee money”. And explains: Many colleagues in his department would drink coffee. We make a quick estimate: For the money we could secure the service of a local guide for two days in Indonesia. On the other hand: the prospect of getting the visa extension today without having to come back ...

We grudgingly consent. Of course, we only get a receipt for IDR 355,000. Despite the acceleration option, the new 30-day visa is still a long time coming. Claudia is called to take photos. While she disappears into an adjoining room, Ester runs away without saying goodbye. She leaves our luggage at a neighboring kiosk. Strange not even to say “Bye”.

Then it's my turn too. A small digital camera is set up in the back room, in front of it a patched-up device that scans my fingerprints (I only have to have the 5 fingertips of my right hand recorded, Claudia all 10 fingers). The procedure takes almost 10 minutes. Either the officer cannot operate the device or it is really nuts. He said goodbye with the words: “Express Visa. Very, very express. We try to make it ready this afternoon ". What do you mean, "We're TRYING to finish this today"? Why have we made a generous donation for the coffee box?

We wait again, this time for 20 minutes, then we get a certificate that our application is being processed and an appointment: Come back this afternoon at 4 p.m.

To cut a long story short: at 4 p.m. we actually get our passports back with the coveted stamp that allows us to stay in Indonesia for another 30 days. Oh yes, by the way, we didn't discover a coffee machine in the authority. 😉

Addendum: Sulawesi Fan Group

For Sulawesi questions of all kinds we can use the closed one Facebook group "Sulawesi Fan Group" recommend. There are some people in it who are directly and up-to-date on site.