Questionable over-stay fines
Opinion News - Monday, January 21, 2008
I together with my family have returned to Singapore from a wonderful trip to West Sumatra. We are a German family residing in Singapore for the last seven years. It was our first trip to West Sumatra. We were eight people: my husband and I, our four children aged 9, 7, 5 and 5, and my parents, who were visiting us from Germany.
We really enjoyed our trip and thought that the landscape, the nature, the culture, the food, the weather and the people were fantastic -- rarely have we seen such hospitality anywhere in the world!
There was only one thing that marred our trip: when we arrived for our one-week stay, we asked an immigration officer upon our arrival in Padang if we could apply for a seven-day visa and he said yes. However, when we got back, immigration insisted we had overstayed by one day and had to pay a Rp 200,000 penalty per person (Rp 1,600,000 in total).
The immigration officers were not willing to entertain our complaint that we had specifically asked this question and had received a specific answer from his colleague that a seven-day visa was fine for our trip.
After a long discussion, we were worried we would miss the plane and we had no choice than to agree to pay the fine. Upon our request we received the attached receipt from the immigration officer.
Since the receipt showed no official reference (unlike the original visa receipt) and due to the fact that nothing about "overstaying" was stamped into our passports either, we felt that this was not at all an official fee and left the country with the sour feeling of having been tricked.
We were quite upset about this, especially because the experience stood in such a big contrast to all the friendly West Sumatran people that we met, who really did their best to show us a great picture of their country.
By coincidence there were two other French families who had taken the same flights as we did. They had the same problem with being accused of overstaying and vowed never to come back to Indonesia again!
When we told this story to friends at home we heard: "That's the way it is in Indonesia, there is nothing that can be done about it." We refuse to believe this and we hope you can do something with this information to help change this situation, in everyone's best interest.
GERMA VON HEYDEBRECK-STRICKER