The Indonesian government has extended a deadline for foreigners to leave the country or switch or extend their visas, following concerns that people may be forced to leave the country ahead of a deadline later this week.
Last month, Indonesia announced new visa rules for foreigners who had previously been allowed to stay in the country under emergency visas due to the coronavirus pandemic. Officials set foreigners a deadline of 30 days to apply for monthly extensions, switch visas or leave the country. Anyone who didn’t comply, officials said, would be subject to daily fines.
In response, Western Australia’s premier, Mark McGowan, had said he was seeking “urgent” advice from the commonwealth about the potentially large number of West Australians returning home from Indonesia.
On Tuesday, the Indonesian immigration department’s chief of public relations, Arvin Gumilang, told the Guardian that people would have more time to comply with the rules.
“For foreigners whose residence permits expired during the pandemic, [they] have the opportunity to apply for a visitor visa and a limited stay visa through the online visa service application,” Gumilang said.
“Everyone should apply for the new [visa] status, renew their status or extend before September 20.”
Foreigners who had permission to stay before the pandemic was declared can extend their residence permit again at their domicile immigration office, he added.
Some foreigners complained the rule changes were confusing, and that they were struggling to comply in time for a deadline set for later this. Others have praised the Indonesian government for making adaptations to their visa systems to allow foreigners to stay.
Kelli Swazey, an anthropologist living in Indonesia, said: “As someone who has lived and worked here for many years and dealt with the immigration system, I still think they are being very generous and trying to be lenient towards the foreigners here in an unprecedented situation. I think the extension today just underscores that.”
For the large cohort of Australians in Bali, getting back home is a challenge. There are strict limits on international passenger arrivals and no direct flights from the island into any Australian city available to purchase.
Some – including those returning to New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia – would also face the cost of mandatory quarantine. McGowan said his government would consider forcing people to pay for the cost of quarantining in hotels.
“People have had months and months and months to come home. And if they haven’t come home they need to pay for the hotel quarantine … Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it,” McGowan said.
The Australian government ordered its citizens to return to the country in March, as the coronavirus pandemic spread caused countries around the world to impose travel restrictions.
Bali is also a popular destination for Perth residents, who, before the pandemic, could fly to the island on a three-and-a-half-hour direct flight – a closer trip than the five-hour flight to Sydney. Yet now, Perth residents still in Bali wanting to travel on Thursday will have to pay at least A$1,550 for a three-leg economy flight home via Singapore. A one-way economy ticket from Denpasar to Sydney on Thursday costs about A$5,300 for a four-leg trip that transits through Taiwan and China.
Australia’s international arrival caps have seen airfare prices surge and drawn complaints from economy passengers, who say they have been taken off flights to create space for business and first-class travellers.
Under the caps, which were introduced in July, Sydney airport is currently limited to 350 international passenger arrivals a day while Perth’s cap is 75 a day – meaning some flights can only carry 30 passengers.