COVID-19 - Path to Recovery: Navigating the Ever-Changing Immigration Regulations as a Foreign National Working in Indonesia
| Alfred Chong

COVID-19 - Path to Recovery: Navigating the Ever-Changing Immigration Regulations as a Foreign National Working in Indonesia

COVID-19 has changed the global immigration landscape drastically over the last few months. With countries closing down borders, placing their populations in total or semi lockdowns, the global immigration system has never been more stressed. Long periods of lockdown have negatively impacted economies. Countries not only have to tackle the virus itself but also the increasing pressures to lift the lockdown and re-open borders. As both the biggest economy and the most populous country in Southeast Asia, Indonesia certainly has not been immune to these competing pressures.

Disruption to Indonesia’s immigration system due to COVID-19

Indonesia stepped up its visa suspension and travel restrictions for foreign visitor arrivals in February 2020 in tandem with the spread of COVID-19 (although the country has taken a more incremental approach than some of its neighbours). As of today, the entry and transit of all foreign national visitors is banned, with only certain exemptions, such as for those with work or stay permits, permanent residents, diplomats, flight crew, humanitarian workers, and workers entering for national strategic projects. 

Any travellers entering Indonesia must undergo health assessments, which include an interview, temperature taking, screening for COVID-19 symptoms, taking an oxygen saturation examination and a COVID-19 test (Rapid Test and/or Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)). They should also carry with them a medical certificate issued within the previous seven days by the local health authorities in their country of departure. They may also be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, either at a government facility or as a self-quarantine. It remains to be seen if all of these requirements will be kept in place after travel restrictions are lifted, but it is likely that some form of heightened health screening and additional documentary and quarantine requirements will continue to be imposed.

Regulations have been implemented with short notice during this pandemic. This is certainly not unique to Indonesia, but is heightened in an environment where the government had been perceived to be responding slowly. For example, even as immigration offices in Jakarta had already stopped accepting renewal applications for stay permits (ITAS), written regulations were subsequently issued which granted emergency stay permits to those with expired ITAS (without the need to apply for an ITAS extension). Also, as Indonesia closed its borders to foreign visitors, those who had already obtained their entry visa (VITAS) found themselves unable to enter Indonesia to “activate” the VITAS (which is a required step in the work permit process). Subsequently, such foreign nationals were able to breathe a sigh of relief when regulations were issued to allow those with expired VITAS issued from 1 January 2020 (but which had not been “activated”) to automatically be reactivated for another 90 calendar days (from the date that the pandemic is declared by the Indonesian government to be officially over). This means foreign nationals will not need to re-apply for a new VITAS (although when they are able to eventually enter the country will be contingent on the Indonesian government’s proclamation of the end of the crisis).

Exceptions under the Indonesia National Strategic Projects and the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM)

While the Ministry of Manpower has stopped accepting new work permit applications for foreign workers, the door is not completely closed. There is still the possibility of obtaining work permits for foreign nationals that work for Strategic National Projects/Proyek Strategis National (PSN) in Indonesia. Indeed, we have recently been successful in working with clients on obtaining such exceptional approval.  

Recently, the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) also shared that they have an agreement with the Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of Law and Human Rights to provide support to companies bringing further investment into Indonesia (i.e., these could be considered as strategic, as long as such investment would benefit the public interest). Companies who wish to explore this option should provide as much information and documentation as possible, including: 

  • Description of the project 
  • Project value
  • Number of local employees required 
  • Positive impact on the environment
  • Details of the proposed foreign workers 


While there is no standard list of requirements, companies should explain to BKPM the urgent need for foreign workers. 

Looking ahead

As can be seen from the above, the situation in Indonesia remains very fluid, but the government is trying to adapt. The suspension of new work and stay permit applications was to end in May initially but currently remains in place. 

While there was some easing of restrictions in Jakarta, at the moment, the authorities have yet to confirm when regular services, such as the acceptance of new work and stay permit applications, will resume. Nevertheless, we are expecting most immigration offices in Jakarta to resume most of their services from next week, with the possibility of this being pushed back depending on the situation. Meanwhile, it seems that the possibility of restarting new work permit applications for foreigners will likely take longer. At least for now, it seems that any requests for work permit will have to be prioritised in accordance to its strategic importance to Indonesia’s development. 

This insight series aims to navigate the uncertainties as borders reopen and remobilisation of workforce resumes. Please stay tuned for more regionally focused blogs and videos. If you have any comments, would like us to share any topics or have any questions on Indonesia immigration to be addressed in our COVID-19 series, please do not hesitate to contact your Fragomen immigration professional, or Alfred Chong, Manager (Indonesia), Asia Pacific Coordination Centre, Fragomen Singapore at [email protected]

This blog was released on 16 June 2020 and, due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our COVID-19 microsite, subscribe to our alerts and follow us on LinkedIn