Indonesia is a huge and diverse country and if you want to explore it properly you need more than just 2 months of touristic visa. Czech Republic and Ukraine are in the list of countries which can get 30-days visa free stamp upon arrival, however we didn’t want every month to leave the country and going back. So when we were deciding what kind of visa to get for longer stay the most suitable option turned out to be social visa to Indonesia, so called sosial budaya.

Social visa to Indonesia

Social visa is the best type of visa for travellers who would like to stay in the country up to 6 months. After 6 months is necessary to leave the country. The only inconvenience about this visa is that it initially gives permission to stay in Indonesia only 60 days with possibility to extend it up to 6 months. So after first 60 days you should go to the immigration office and apply for extension. Every extension allows you to stay 1 more month (30 days to be precise). It is possible to extend it 4 times which makes it in total 6 months. Not comfortable to extend it every month but unfortunately there is no other way. 2 more important things to note:

  • You have to apply for social visa abroad of Indonesia, so you cannot combine it with visa free stamp. You can apply at your home country or any other country which has a consulate of Indonesia. We did it in Malaysia.
  • You need to have a sponsor in order to get social visa to Indonesia. More about it in the next chapter.

Edit May 2017:

Several backpackers told us that initially you can apply for 60 day tourist visa instead of social visa. Both types have same code (211). Once you spend first 2 months in Indonesia you will apply for extension and thus transform 60 day tourist visa into social visa. The good thing is that you will need the sponsor only when extending after first 2 months. 

Edit May 2018: 

It seems that Penang consulate stopped giving 60 day visa without sponsor. It means you need to have sponsor (and all documents) immediately when applying for a visa.

How to find sponsor

As we didn’t have friends in Indonesia before we came there, we used the agent who provided us sponsorship letter and ID copy which are necessary to get Social visa. For 20 USD per person (paid over PayPal) we received letters and ID the next day after we contacted the agent. The communication was held via WhatsApp and was very efficient and quick.
If you have a Indonesian friend who would make the letter for you instead it is quite easy and he/she doesn’t need to prove any income, only needed is a letter and copy of ID. The sponsorship letter form can be found here and it should contain a special stamp called “materia” with nomination of 6000 rupiah.

How to get social visa to Indonesia in Malaysia – Penang

Consulate in Penang is less busy and crowded than KL and our travel plan was going across this island anyway, so we decided to apply for visa there, however we could have done it also in Kuala Lumpur. Penang is very nice island with great history, amazing food and beautiful nature. We stayed in the Cocoa Mews in Little India. The double room for 13 euros/night was nice with aircon and the manager was very friendly and gave us many useful pieces of advice.

To get to the embassy from there was very easy – the bus station is situated just nearby. In order to get to the consulate on Jalan Burma, 467 you should take the bus number 101 but prepare 1.4 MYR for the ticket as bus drivers have no change. You just step on the bus, tell driver you want to go to Gurney Plaza and put the money in the box. If you have banknote 5 or 10 MYR you really have no chances to get the rest. After you pay, the easiest way is to watch google maps during the ride with your position and once you are close to embassy, step out and walk there. Or you can use old fashioned way and ask in the bus for Gurney Plaza/Indonesian consulate. If you need more information about the routes of the public transport you can find it here.

In order to apply for social visa to Indonesia you need to come in the morning between 9 – 12AM. Before you go, check if there are no any national holidays. There is dress code in the consulate and people should wear decently – no shorts, no short skirts, no flip-flops, no open t-shirts. The security won’t let anyone in unless the outfit is decent.

The documents needed for the social visa:

  • Sponsorship letter
  • copy of ID of the sponsor
  • 1 photo, it is recommended to make it on the red background, however we had it on white and it was fine
  • Application form that will be given to you in the consulate
  • 190 MYR in cash

We read that sometimes you might be asked for an exit ticket from Indonesia and bank statement, so we had them prepared as well, but they didn’t ask for them. We just paid 190 MYR for the visa and on the next day in the afternoon we got our passports back with visa.

You can create a fake exit ticket on this website for free. Just follow the booking process and in last step choose “Payment on branch”. Be sure to write correct email address, because they will send you the ticket there. It looks totally legit and you can use it as an exit ticket. It will be automatically canceled after xx days if you don’t pay. We used it several times at different visa applications and it was always fine.

How to make a visa extension

So you spent almost 2 months in Indonesia and it’s time to make extension. In order to get it, there is some paperwork that must be done by the sponsor and also you need to visit immigration office of the place where is your sponsor from. Our sponsor was from Bali, so we planned our trip the way to be in Bali when there was time to make an extension.

The procedure using the agent was following: 
We again contacted our agent and he picked up our passports in our hostel in Ubud and after few days we went to the immigration office in Jimbaran where we had to give our fingerprints. It is not necessary to say that Bali is very touristic destination therefore there are a lot of people in the immigration office and when we saw it we were happy we used agent service otherwise we would spent a lot of time there. However, service always costs money. The same day in the evening the passport was delivered to us. The price was 650.000 Rp. Normal processing time is 5-8 working days, it can be less if you pay extra.

The procedure if you have your friend as a sponsor (without agent) is following: 
First visit you collect and fill all the documents they give you, bring photocopy of your passport and visa with you. Second visit you come to pay 355.000 rupiah and give fingerprints (only 1st extension). And then last visit you come to pick up your passport. So it is needed to come at least 3 times (if everything goes smoothly). The whole procedure will take 3-9 days depending on immigration office and how busy they are.

Now you are probably thinking that if you need to come every 30 days for another extension to Bali it totally sucks. Indonesia is huge and you want to explore more than just Bali. And coming every month back is not convenient at all. Don’t worry, you can change the sponsor and thus the location where to make an extension.

How to change a sponsor

Once you start to travel outside of touristic places, talk to locals and make friends, you meet someone who will be willing to be your sponsor and usually without asking anything in return. Even if you won’t, you can come to immigration office of the new place and ask if there is someone who could be your new sponsor (of course for some “donation” in this case). It is not official way, but we heard travelers did it and it worked. Note that you always need to come to immigration office of area where your sponsor has permanent address.

In our case it was bit different. In Indonesia backpackers facebook group we found friends who invited us to Bau-Bau, Sulawesi and who offered us to be our sponsor for the next extension. However in order to change the sponsor, the first sponsor whose name is on the visa, should make a letter-authorisation stating that he gives a right for another person to become the new sponsor. So we contacted our Bali agent and we were surprised when he told us that we could prepare this letter on our own and that he didn’t mind us doing it instead of him. Our friends from Bau-Bau helped us with the letter, we bought the stamp for 6000 rupiah and the letter to change the sponsor was ready.

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Example of the letter to change the sponsor – personal details are erased

It took only 3 days to make an extension in Bau-Bau, Pulau Buton, Sulawesi. On the first day we submitted all the documents and on the third day we paid 355.000 rupiah and got our passports back. The fingerprints are usually given only during the first extension, so it was skipped here. We have to say that in Bau-Bau it was very easy to extend the visa, people in the immigration office were friendly and they gave us all necessary information.

3rd visa extension in Tual, Kei Islands

This place seemed to be the most bureaucratic of all we have visited. In Tual immigration office the officers honestly didn’t seem to know well the procedure of visa extension as we were coming to the office probably 5 times before we finally submitted the documents. And without our local friend we would never make it. Thanks Wawan!

Every time we were given new information. They also wanted an exit ticket showing that we are leaving the country. When we came next time with the tickets, they told us we cannot change a sponsor to our local friend, but we have to stick to our initial sponsor from Bali and bring document from him. It raised a lot of question in our minds as we already changed the sponsor and now our sponsor was in Sulawesi, but they wanted papers from our Balinese sponsor who is stated on the visa in our passports.
However in order to sum up the confusion of this experience we successfully extended our visas in Tual. We brought them:

  • the application form
  • plane tickets showing that we are leaving the country (see the link to create fake ticket for free in 1st chapter)
  • sponsorship letter from our Balinese sponsor, despite the fact that we already changed him
  • ID of the sponsor
  • copy of the visa
  • 355.000 rupiah

Despite it seemed impossible and according to the rules not correct – we did it. We extended our visa on our own in Tual with a sponsor from Bali who was already changed to another sponsor from Sulawesi. Total nonsense?

The conclusion of the last chapter is that the rules are not important in Indonesia and everything is possible. In the end it is just a stamp and it depends on officer whether he gives it to you or not and what rules he create.

Last interesting thing to note is that extension for another 30 days is always counted from expiration date of previous extension, not from the day you apply. There is no strict rule how much in advance of expiration you can apply for next extension, but for our last extension we applied 2 weeks before expiration. They didn’t really like it, but we told them we would be on small islands and we wouldn’t have possibility to do it later, so in the end we had 40 days till our next extension would expire.

We hope this article how to get social visa to Indonesia was understandable. If you have any comments or questions, let us know in comments and we will answer them as soon as possible.

Enjoy Indoneisa, it is amazing and diverse country, which has so much to offer. We will definitely be back once.