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Indonesia: Implementation of New Immigration Law Delayed

(Oct. 24, 2011) Indonesia adopted a new law on immigration on April 7, 2011, replacing a 1992 statute. (Undang-undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 6 Tahun 2011 Tentang Keimigrasian [Law No. 6 of 2011 of the Republic of Indonesia on Immigration], Indonesian Consulate – Ottawa website (last visited Oct. 20, 2011).) It was designed in part to ease the way for qualifying foreigners to obtain permanent residency permits, but a number of possible beneficiaries of the law have found it is not yet in force. Spouses in mixed marriages are particularly eager for the new provisions to take effect, but full implementing rules are not in place. According to a news report, the regulations have been drafted but will not be issued as a government decree until next year. (Ulma Haryanto, New Immigration Law Confuses One and All, THE JAKARTA GLOBE (Oct. 20, 2011).)

Erwin Azis, Director of Immigration Information Systems, reportedly said in July 2011 that aspects of the law could go into effect before the adoption of the regulations, but anecdotal information suggests implementation has been uneven across the country. (Id.) Couples who have been married for a long period, but with one spouse not an Indonesian citizen, have had different experiences when the non-Indonesian spouse applies for a permanent residency permit (kitap); the new law makes acquisition of permanent residency permits possible, replacing the system of temporary permits that had to be renewed annually. According to Sandra Tjahyakusuma, of the International Rainbow Alliance, a group that advocated the reform of the law, many applicants have been told they cannot yet receive kitap. Tjahyakusuma commented on the situation, stating, “[w]e find this ridiculous because the new law includes a transitional provision that says the legal spouse of an Indonesian citizen who has had a Kitas [temporary residency permit] for at least two years can immediately get the Kitap.” (Id.)

Provisions of the new law relevant to residence permits include:

1. after two years of marriage, foreign spouses of Indonesian citizens can obtain a kitap, which must be renewed, at no charge, every five years;

2. after ten years of marriage to an Indonesian citizen, a foreigner earns the right to remain in the country even if the marriage ends in divorce;

3. foreign spouses will be allowed to work in the country, even without a sponsor;

4. a foreigner with a kitap can leave Indonesia for long periods of time without losing the permit, if he or she obtains a multiple re-entry permit; and

5. a kitap may also be issued to:

• children from mixed marriages, regardless of their nationality. They do still have to choose a citizenship at the age of 18, with three years of possible extension. At that time, if they do not choose Indonesian citizenship, a residence permit would be required for them to stay in the country;

• foreigners who have held a temporary permit for three years (previously five years had been required); and

• former holders of Indonesian citizenship. (Id.)

The new law also has provisions on improved coordination between the police and immigration investigators to more efficiently handle immigration violations. In addition, it has strengthened provisions on human smuggling designed to improve on a 2007 law on the subject. A charge of human smuggling can be made against a person who enters the country with a group of people who are not legally permitted to enter, whether the members of that group are doing so voluntarily or not. Upon conviction for human smuggling, a defendant may be sentenced to a minimum of five and a maximum of 15 years in jail, plus a fine of up to Rp1.5 billion (about US$173,000). The law also sets a minimum prison sentence of five years and a maximum of 15 for anyone convicted of people smuggling, as well as fines of up to Rp1.5 billion (about US$170,000). Any immigration official found to be involved in the crime through willful neglect of duty can also face criminal charges. (Anita Rachman, Immigration Law Cracks Down on People Smuggling, THE JAKARTA GLOBE (Apr. 8, 2011).)