Jakarta resident Lucy had hoped that she and her French husband would reunite with their firstborn son by June this year in Indonesia after last seeing him last Christmas. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has foiled their plan.
Their 24-year-old son, now a French citizen, cannot visit his family with a visa on arrival due to current Indonesian immigration rules. Meanwhile, Lucy is unable to apply for a temporary stay permit for him because the application process requires that foreigners be physically present in Indonesia.
“Honestly, I am always worried about the kids but I never show it, or else they will be even more worried,” said Lucy, who hopes that the immigration authorities will ease procedures for mixed-marriage children.
Indonesian Mixed-Marriage Society (PerCa) chairwoman Juliani W. Luthan said families in Indonesia like Lucy’s had struggled to meet up with their children abroad because of rules on renouncing dual citizenship and they lacked stay permits.
The 2006 law on citizenship stipulates that mixed-marriage children have limited dual citizenship until they turn 18 or are married. They then have until 21 to choose one citizenship, otherwise they automatically lose the right to choose and the government will only recognize their foreign citizenship.
She said those who opted to renounce their Indonesian citizenship usually did so to receive an education abroad. They also often prefer to not apply for stay permits because they live outside Indonesia and use only visitor visas to visit their family members in Indonesia.
The latest regulation issued by the Law and Human Rights Ministry to respond to the pandemic generally bars foreigners from entering Indonesia unless they have a temporary stay permit (ITAS) or permanent stay permit (ITAP) with a valid entry permit.
As a result, children of mixed marriages who have relied on visitor visas to get to Indonesia now face challenges visiting their families.
“The children then have no choice but to stay in their respective countries,” Juliani told The Jakarta Post.
She recommended that the government ease procedures for mixed-marriage couples, especially if they had documents that proved they had family in Indonesia.
“They are not tourists. They are people who want to meet their family,” said Juliani.
Children with dual citizenship have long been dealing with citizenship or immigration problems, even before the pandemic hit, experts said in a webinar on Monday.
Ike Farida, a lawyer familiar with the issue, said children were losing their Indonesian citizenship because they were late to process it, with some families making the incorrect assumption that applications could be fully processed shortly before their children turn 21 years old.
Children who study abroad also often faced the dilemma of whether or not to drop their citizenship halfway through their education, Ike said.
Mixed-marriage families who fail to obtain an affidavit risk having their child lose their Indonesian citizenship. The affidavit is used to prove that their children have the right to dual citizenship and are thus allowed to enter Indonesia with two passports.
Ike suggested that authorities revise the Citizenship Law to give children more time to choose one citizenship. The amendment, she said, should also treat children who lost their Indonesian citizenship as “ex-Indonesian citizens” when they want to reapply for it instead of foreign nationals, who must go through a complicated naturalization process.
Law and Human Ministry director for state administration Baroto said he was striving to revise certain regulations to provide quick fixes for problems faced by children with dual citizenship who have not registered their Indonesian citizenship.
The ministry, he said, had been developing an application called SAKE that allowed children with two citizenships to apply for an Indonesian citizenship online.
The immigration’s head of stay permits, Burhanuddin, said in a recent public discussion that his team was currently formulating a circular that would lay down the basis to process online stay permit applications, although no dates have been announced as of Wednesday.
Mixed-marriage families are not alone in raising such concerns. Indian citizen and ITAS holder Aruna said her 18-year-old son could not go back to Indonesia since the country had closed its borders to foreigners in March because her son usually used a visa on arrival for short stays and a visa for social visits for longer ones.
Aruna’s son is now left stranded in London. His university has been closed throughout the pandemic and his accommodation contract has expired.
He now spends much of his time outside looking for accommodation, despite the dangers of being exposed to the virus, according to Aruna.
“I cannot eat or sleep peacefully. Any parent who is separated from their kid will understand this pain. I feel terrible as a parent when I think that I did not protect my kid. I do not know when I am going to see my son again and hence I choke with sadness as I write this,” Aruna wrote to the Post on Tuesday.