The Jakarta Post
Haida, a 53-year-old resident of Jakarta, said that she was stumped when she learned that her daughter must soon return to Malaysia alone because of the recent revocation of the emergency stay permit (ITKT) and corresponding policies, which came into force on July 13.
Haida is Indonesian, but her husband is a Malaysian citizen who is in Indonesia on a permanent stay permit (ITAP). Their 18-year-old daughter Jennet has a Malaysian passport and is enrolled at a university in Germany.
Jennet usually returns to visit her parents in Indonesia under the visa-free facility, an exemption accorded to ASEAN passport holders and other designated states. But she has been staying on an ITKT since March, when her visit was unexpectedly prolonged as a result of the COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by many countries in the world, including Indonesia.
The short stay visa free facility allows foreign visitors to stay in Indonesia for up to 30 days.
The Immigration Directorate General of the Law and Human Rights Ministry announced on April 1 that it had issued a new emergency extension facility for all foreign nationals who had entered the country as of Feb. 5, as countries around the world closed their borders to travelers in response to the pandemic.
The automatic ITKT facility was to be in force until the "COVID-19 outbreak is declared over by the authorities".
On July 12, however, the immigration office announced that it was revoking the ITKT facility and offering a grace period of 30 to 60 days effective July 13 for foreign nationals to depart the country, depending on which visa or permit they entered.
Visitors who entered Indonesia on the visa-free facility that had since expired must now leave the territory within 30 days from July 13, or by Aug. 12.
Jennet is ineligible to convert the visa-free facility into a limited stay visa for family reunification (VITAS 317), as the country's consulates and embassies have not resumed services for new visa applications.
“My daughter cannot go back to Germany because there are no flights going there. If she goes back to Malaysia, she would not be able to return to Indonesia,” Haida told The Jakarta Post, adding that the family had no close relatives or a house in Malaysia.
“Where should my daughter go then?” she said in distress.
The circumstances of Haida's transnational family is not unique, and many mixed couples and their families now have an additional uncertainty to deal with. Some couples and families may even be forcibly separated across international borders as a result of the updated policy.
The immigration office announced on its official Twitter account @ditjen_imigrasi on July 13 that it was permitting the extension of ITAP and temporary stay permits (ITAS). It also announced that visitors with a visa on arrival (VOA) who were now on the emergency permit may also extend their VOAs within the 30-day grace period.
The immigration website contains a caveat, however: "unless the Covid-19 pandemic is declared over and available transports are leaving Indonesia". It does not mention travel restrictions that may still be in force in a visitor's home country that may affect their arrival or deny them entry.
Meanwhile, visitors on the visa-free facility must leave the country.
The updated policy also carries "immigration administrative sanctions" that apply to holders of any visa or stay permit, excepting those who have a visa telex for the ITAS or the visitor stay permit (ITK) and have been unable to complete their visa process to date.
Chairwoman Juliani W. Luthan of the Indonesian Mixed-Marriage Society (PerCa) praised the immigration office for providing clarity on the updated policy for ITAS and ITAP holders, saying that many families had rushed to extend their permits upon learning about the new policy.
Many mixed families faced uncertainty regarding their status in Indonesia, as the immigration authority had suspended visa extension services.
But like Jennet, transnational families with children or spouses still overseas without valid entry visas or stay permits remain in limbo.
Juliani said that such families relied on VOAs, which were not exempt from the ban on foreign visitors still in force.
All foreign visitors remain barred from entering Indonesia unless they have dual citizenship, have diplomatic visas or stay permits, or are engaged in medical or humanitarian activities, as well as other specific conditions.
Juliani suggested that the government allow mixed families to apply for the VITAS 317, which would facilitate their reunion and allow the visiting family member to eventually apply for an ITAS or ITAP.
“We understand that the government is hesitant to [reopen] the VOA facility. But it would be much clearer if we could simplify the VITAS 317 application [procedure], seeing as the government will only allow mixed families to enter Indonesia,” she said.
For instance, the government could allow the Indonesian nationals of a single family to apply for the VITAS 317 on behalf of a foreign family member that remained abroad. Under this scenario, the foreign family member would only need to produce the immigration clearance telex approving their VITAS application at the port of entry.
The Post has contacted the immigration office for comment.
But the new policy has also brought certainty for some mixed families.
Fida Muljono, 63, said she was relieved to learn that her French husband could now extend his ITAP, which was due to expire on July 27.
Fida said she had been in a panic since March about her husband’s ITAP extension. Her greatest fear was that her husband would be unable to reenter Indonesia on an expired ITAP in the event that he needed to go to France for medical treatment.
She and her husband promptly visited the South Jakarta immigration office on July 14, the day after the policy came into effect, to start the extension process.
“The immigration officers really understood the anxiety foreigners have endured, and they patiently provided guidance to us,” she said.