Galih Gumelar, Jakarta – After months of being prevented from returning to Indonesia because of entry restrictions, foreign members of mixed-nationality families abroad can now reunite with their families in Indonesia thanks to a recent change in visa policy.
The Law and Human Rights Ministry's immigration office announced on Monday that it would allow foreign spouses and children of mixed-nationality marriages living abroad to apply for a limited stay visa for family reunification (VITAS 317) to enter Indonesia.
The policy comes after immigration authorities suspended almost all visa application processes, including for family reunification, and generally restricted foreigners from entering Indonesia since April 2 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The new policy allows foreign members of mixed-nationality families to apply for the visa online and offshore and submit documents, such as an application form and a copy of their passport, via the immigration office's website visa-online.imigrasi.go.id.
The immigration office will send its approval, known as telex visa, to applicants via email once officials verify their documents. Applicants can obtain the visa at Indonesian embassies by providing the telex visa from the immigration office.
The policy on family reunification visas not only applies to foreign members of mixed-nationality families, but also to spouses or children of foreigners living in Indonesia, who hold temporary stay permits (ITAS) and permanent stay permits (ITAP).
The immigration office said the policy was made for "humanitarian reasons".
"Some people might not be able to deal with the current situation without having their families by their side," Immigration Directorate General spokesperson Arvin Gumilang told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
"But, they should also comply with health protocols such as going into quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Indonesia."
He said, however, that the immigration office had, so far, no intentions of completely lifting the entry ban for all foreigners – a restriction laid out in a regulation from the Law and Human Rights Ministry. The regulation generally bars foreigners from entering the country unless they have an ITAP or ITAS with a valid entry permit.
Indonesian Mixed-Marriage Society (PerCa) chairwoman Juliani Luthan welcomed the new policy, saying the government had finally listened to the concerns of many mixed-nationality families in the past six months.
She said that PerCa had actively urged the government to allow members of mixed-nationality families overseas to enter Indonesia during the health crisis because they, especially the children, needed to be around their support system to cope with the pandemic.
Before the pandemic hit Indonesia, most of the children residing overseas, often to study, had generally relied on visitor visas to enter the country. However, they were no longer able to do so after the ban was imposed in April.
Mixed-nationality married couples have faced similar struggles.
Juliani said her organization had observed numerous cases in which a husband who holds foreign citizenship and had gone abroad on a work-related trip had been prevented from returning to their families in Indonesia during the pandemic because they did not have an ITAP or ITAS. Some had become stranded overseas while their wives in Indonesia were about to give birth to their children, Juliani said.
PerCa has sent letters to the immigration office voicing their concerns, encouraging authorities to reinstate the VITAS 317 application process as a quick solution.
"Long story short, the policy is exactly what we wanted. Finally, the government is paying attention to our demands and we appreciate that," Juliani said.
"Now we only hope that the immigration office will not complicate the process with bureaucracy so that children and spouses abroad can return home as soon as possible."