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Breaking News: Visa Free Facility Revoked

Confusion Reigns as President Megawati Suddenly Revokes Visa Free on Arrival Facility.

(4/7/2003) Despite widespread protests from Indonesia's tourism industry, the Government has forged ahead with its plans to revoke the visa-free facility enjoyed by the citizens of 48 countries visiting Indonesia.

In a Presidential decision No. 18 of 2003 dated 31 March 2003 - and only made public on Monday, April 7, 2003, President Megawati Soekarnoputri declared:

The Visa free facility on arrival has been revoked for reasons of "reciprocity and national security."

Countries excepted from the new regulation include Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Philippines, Hong Kong (SAR), Macao (SAR), Chile, Morocco, Turkey and Peru.

Nationals of other countries (assumed to be limited to those listed in the former 48 formerly granted visa-free visits and not listed in the exempted nations) will be granted a visa of 30 days at the Indonesian arrival gateway following the payment of a fee. While the Presidential decision does not specify the amount of the visa fee, a figure of US$ 50 has been widely discussed.

The 30 day visa issued at the Countries gateways will be non-extendable and not eligible for mutation into another form of visa.

Visitors wishing to stay for more than 30 days will be required to apply beforehand for visas at the Indonesian Embassy in their country of residence.

Those visitors who are visiting Indonesia under the terms of a contract signed between an Indonesian tour operator and a foreign tour operator will be allowed an additional 6 months before the new visa policy is applied.

Confusion Likely to Prevail

The new visa policy is likely to raise a number of questions and confuse the traveling public.

That the President's decision has immediate effect may result in uneven administration and payment practices at local airports. How will people be treated who refuse to pay the additional visa? Will official receipts be issued? How will the authorities determine those travelers exempted from paying due to existing contracts with Indonesian tour operators?

What currencies will be accepted and at what rates of exchange?

Visitors arriving in the days just prior to the announcement were apparently not charged the visa fee. So, when, exactly, will the charge be imposed?

Dark Days Ahead

Despite widespread protests from the tourism industry and surveys showing that a drop of as little as 3% in visitor arrivals would completely nullify any foreign exchange advantage resulting from a visa fee when compared with lost foreign exchange generated by foreign tourist, the Government has pushed ahead with its plans to impose the new visa policy and fee system.

Cry, the Beloved Country

A tourism industry already reeling from the ill-effects of the war on Iraq, travel advisories prejudicial to Indonesian tourism, a teetering world economy and a SARS crisis - is likely to see the latest decision as a potential "death blow" to a market sector being lobbied continuously by the Government to avoid layoffs at all costs.