Sat, 12 Apr 2003

Old visa policy still in effect, no guidelines for new ruling

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Legal confusion has emerged regarding the new policy revoking the free-visa-on-arrival facility extended to nationals of 48 countries, with an immigration official saying the ruling would not come into effect until executory guidelines had been issued.

Directorate General of Immigration spokesman Ade E. Dachlan told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the existing regulation would remain in effect until the issuance of the guidelines, meaning the 37 countries affected by the new policy -- including the U.S., Britain, Japan, Australia -- could continue to enjoy free-visa-on-arrival facilities.

"Our officers can do nothing if they have no technical guidelines for implementation. Therefore, we have instructed all ports of entry in the country to continue to apply the current policy until further notice," Ade said.

The immigration office's stance appears to contradict the presidential decree on the new visa policy, which states that it came into effect on March 31, the date on which it was signed.

The decree permits short free-visa-on-arrival visits for the nationals of 11 countries, namely Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Macao, Chile, Morocco, Turkey and Peru.

Under the new policy, nationals from certain countries will be entitled to a non-extendable visa upon arrival at a port of entry, while those from other countries must apply for regular visas from Indonesian consulates and embassies in their home countries.

The new policy cuts the length of the free-visa-on-arrival stay from 60 days to 30 days. The new pay-visa-on-arrival would also only allow visitors to stay here for 30 days, Ade explained.

He said that the justice ministry was currently drafting the guidelines, particularly those concerning the pay-visa-on-arrival procedures. The ministry has sought advice from the foreign ministry and tourism ministry for this purpose, he said.

He said the countries excluded from the free-visa list would be put on the priority list of recipients for pay-visas. These included the countries from which Indonesia traditionally drew tourists.

Separately, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Director General of Protocol and Consular Affairs Joko Hardono suggested that visa-on-arrival facilities should only be provided for the citizens of countries that did not have Indonesian embassies or for pressing affairs of state.

"For example if a foreign official has to attend an international conference here, he could avail of a visa-on- arrival facility," Joko added.

He said Indonesian consular offices around the globe were ready to implement the new regulation.

Ade added that the justice ministry planned to adopt a simple visa-on-arrival procedure, such as that applied by Thailand. He was referring to a process that only took several minutes, with immigration officers putting a special stamp on the visa-on- arrival form after visitors pay a sum of money.

An arriving foreign national usually pays US$50 for a visa-on- arrival in Thailand.

The tourism industry has condemned the new policy, saying it will hurt the sector, which has already been hit hard by the Oct. 12, 2002, bomb attacks in Bali, the Iraq war and the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.