When the long-awaited revision of the 1992 Immigration Law was passed in April, thousands of foreigners living here greeted it with cautious cheers and applause.
The revisions are supposed to make it easier for foreigners who qualify to obtain permanent residency permits, but the months since the law’s passage have proved to be confusing both for the supposed beneficiaries and the office supposed to implement it.
Hundreds of mixed-marriage couples are at the forefront of those waiting anxiously for the new law to become effective.
“The spirit of this new law is to accommodate long-time married couples whose spouses still have to renew their permit once every year,” said Sandra Tjahyakusuma, a member of International Rainbow Alliance (APAB), which is part of the advocacy team for the
2011 Immigration Law.
The new law stipulates that foreigners who have been legally married to an Indonesian for at least two years will be immediately granted a permanent residency permit (Kitap). It also allows foreigners to remain in the country even if they divorce their Indonesian partner, as long as their marriage lasted at least 10 years.
Sandra, an Indonesian citizen who has been married to a British national for 18 years, said the old law did not accommodate foreigners who wanted to get a permanent residency permit unless they held top corporate positions.
“Now if you are married for a minimum of two years with an Indonesian citizen, you are eligible for it,” she said.
But there remain plenty of questions and complaints.
In Effect or Not?
The most common question asked since the law’s passage is: When will it go into effect?
And here lies the first confusion: Technically, a law needs implementing rules and regulations to be enforced properly.
“We are still waiting for the [implementing rules] on this,” said Asriyani, one of the bureau heads at Central Jakarta Immigration Office.
A thick draft of the regulations, which would be issued in the form of a governmental decree, was shown to the Jakarta Globe, but officials say this won’t be finalized until next year. The law states that such regulations should be issued within a year of a law being passed, though this hasn’t always happened. The 2009 Health Law, for instance, still doesn’t have implementing rules and regulations.
The regulations are needed to detail exactly how to interpret the law.
However, in July, Erwin Azis, director of immigration information systems, explained in a public forum that even without the government decree, certain parts of the law were already in effect, like the one where foreigners who have been legally married to an Indonesian for two years are entitled to obtain a Kitap.
But it seems not everyone is on the same page.
Sandra said they’ve compiled the most common responses given by immigration officials who reject applications for a Kitap, as submitted by dozens of frustrated mixed-marriage couples.
The first one is that the law is not yet in effect, she said.
“We find this ridiculous because the new law includes a transitional provision that says the legal spouse of an Indonesian citizen who has had a Kitas [temporary residency permit] for at least two years can immediately get the Kitap,” Sandra explained.
The second relates to fees. Earlier this month, APAB also received a report that a staff member at the Immigration Directorate General demanded Rp 15 million ($1,700) for the Kitap.
According to the old law, a Kitap that’s valid for five years costs Rp 3 million, and an extension would cost Rp 2 million. The implementing regulations to be issued next year are supposed to define the new costs.
“The third response is that the applicant still needs a sponsor even though Article 63, Paragraph 4 of the new law says a sponsor is no longer needed for those married to Indonesian citizens,” Sandra said.
With or without implementing regulations, the West Jakarta Immigration Office has gone ahead and applied aspects of the new law and issued Kitaps to foreigners who met the requirements for mixed-marriage couples.
Office head Mirza Iskandar said they did not judge applications based on occupations, “as long as they are married to an Indonesian for at least two years. That’s what the law says.”
“But not that many people come here. I think most of the mixed-marriage couples go to the South Jakarta Immigration Office,” he said.
Mujiyono, the head of the South Jakarta Immigration Office, said he had recently begun accepting applications from foreigners wishing to make use of the new law, but not all were approved.
“Of course I have to filter them first. Only applications from those who have been married at least two years and can show a document from their embassy will be forwarded to the provincial [immigration] office,” he said.
Burhanuddin, who is responsible for issuing Kitaps in West Jakarta, said the process usually took at least a month as staffers needed to verify the information including by home visits.
“If they are really married to Indonesians, and for how long, etcetera,” he said.
After the field check, the district immigration office will hand over the data to the provincial office. “We cannot predict how long that part will take. It could be a month or more,” he said.
The Central Jakarta Immigration Office, however, said it was not yet accepting applications.
Immigration spokesman Maryoto Sumadi apologized for the different treatments foreigners received at district offices.
“We are not yet finished with the awareness campaign for the new law,” he said.
Maryoto also said that even though the new law allowed holders of temporary and permanent residency permits to work or own businesses, separate work permit requirements would still be regulated by the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry. A spokesman there, Suhartono, said his office was still in the process of revising its regulations to match the new Immigration Law.
“But the requirements will still be the same,” he said.
Going Around the System?
A seasoned “agent” at the Central Jakarta Immigration Office, who only wanted to be identified as Raja, told the Globe that to get a Kitap, one should be prepared to pay through the nose.
“If you want to use an agent, the cost to get a Kitap could be as high as Rp 30 million,” Raja said. “You can just sit back and we will deliver it to you. You only need to come to the immigration office once to get your picture taken.”
Raja recommended people apply for the permit themselves, but still, one has to prepare for “additional fees.”
“You will basically need to get your application through three different offices: district, provincial and ministerial,” Raja said. “For the first two, you need to give between Rp 250,000 and Rp 500,000 over the counter. But at the directorate general in Kuningan, you have to pay around Rp 5 million, but you can negotiate.”
Refusing to pay these fees, he continued, could affect the application. “Of course if you ask staff here they will say that they know nothing about the prices, but none of them will object if you give them money,” he continued. “It also gets them to approve your application faster.”
APAB’s Recommendations for the Implementing Regulations
1. Kitap holders from mixed marriages should get a special registration number to differentiate them from business owners.
2. The term “relative through marriage” should be clarified.
3. Foreigners married to an Indonesian for over two years should be able to get their Kitap without first applying for a Kitas.
4. Sponsorship should no longer be needed for foreign spouses.
5. For those mixed-marriage couples who have already
been married for a long period of time, a statement from the foreign spouse’s embassy of
a good record and marital status should no longer be necessary.
A Refresher on the Key Points
1. Foreign spouses of Indonesian citizens can get a permanent residency permit (Kitap) after two years of marriage. They will only be required to report to the immigration office once every five years — a free service — instead of the annual renewal currently required.
2. If they have been married to an Indonesian citizen for at least 10 years, foreigners can stay in the country even after a divorce.
3. Foreign spouses will be allowed to work in the country without a sponsor.
4. Others who are eligible for a Kitap are:
• Children from mixed marriages, regardless of their nationality. However, these children still have to choose a citizenship at the age of 18, with three years of possible extension. If they choose foreign citizenship, they have to apply for a temporary or permanent residency permit.
• Foreigners who have held a Kitas for three years, less than the five years previously required, can get a Kitap.
• Former holders of Indonesian citizenship.
5. Foreigners with a Kitap who leave Indonesia for long periods of time will not lose the permit as long as they obtain multiple re-entry permits.