While the government recently said it would waive visa requirements for 30 countries starting in April, legal issues may delay its implementation as an Indonesian law stipulates that visa exemptions could only be made on a reciprocal basis.
Tourism Ministry's spokesperson Vincent Jemadu said that the ministry would propose the elimination of the 'reciprocity basis' clause, which could hamper implementation of the visa-free privilege for the 30 countries.
The Immigration Law No. 6/2011 stipulates that the only foreigners who are allowed to enter Indonesia without visas are citizens of countries that similarly don't require Indonesians to get tourist visas.
'In order to effectively implement the visa-free policy we do need to revise this law; otherwise we have to conduct a painstaking process of negotiation for reciprocity,' Vincent said.
'We are planning to propose this [revision] to the Law and Human Rights Ministry to support the government's plan to boost the country's foreign exchange income from the tourism industry,' he continued.
Through the visa-free policy, the government aims to attract an additional 3 million tourists this year, bringing the overall target up to 11 million tourists.
Malaysia, which waives visa requirements for 164 countries without any reciprocity basis, welcomed more than 27 million foreign tourist last year.
As reported, the government would extend the visa-free policy, which was initially set for China, Japan, South Korea and Russia only, to 30 countries, including Canada, Mexico and the US.
Also included on the list are European countries such as Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, in addition to South Africa and Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Currently, tourists from these countries are still required to pay a US$35 fee for a visa-on-arrival for a 30-day stay in Indonesia.
Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly earlier said that the government would keep pushing the aforementioned countries to also adopt the visa-free policy for the sake of reciprocity.
Pushing for reciprocity, however, will be a daunting task for the government.
French Embassy press officer Gaspard Vignal said that Indonesia's planned visa-free policy would possibly attract more tourists from France to Indonesia. 'France is enthusiastic about this project; more French will be able to come and visit Indonesia. For the reciprocity, however, France is under the Schengen rule for visas. The country is not the only one to decide,' he said.
Separately, Adam Rutland, the head of media and communications at the British Embassy, said that the UK visa requirement was given a regular review and there was no plan to change the visa requirement yet.
Law and Human Rights Ministry's acting director general for immigration Tengku Syahrizal said that the ministry was still waiting for an official direction regarding the implementation of the visa-free policy, which was planned to come into effect in April.
'Based on the law, it should be implemented on a reciprocal basis, but the government has decided to waive visa requirements, even though it is not in accordance to our law,' Tengku said. 'There are no specific instructions for us yet.'