Pro-Link GLOBAL immigration dispatch – Indonesia, India, Qatar and Singapore
Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Indonesia, India, Qatar, and Singapore.
Indonesia – Transition to online system bringing numerous changesThe numerous recent small changes to the immigration process in Indonesia now appear to have been just a preview of more significant changes to come. Indonesia’s Directorate General of Immigration (DGI) will reportedly transition to an online immigration processing system, and that transition has already brought changes ahead of the full implementation. Pro-Link GLOBAL expects to see frequent process changes in Indonesia over the coming months; please continue to watch our future Immigration Dispatches for updates and take note of the below.
KITAS Cards no longer being issuedSome local immigration offices have already stopped issuing physical Temporary Stay Permit Cards (KITAS). Applicants are instead receiving their stay permits by email. Foreign nationals who do not receive a physical KITAS card should print a copy of their electronic KITAS to carry with their passports.
Dependents must wait for employee’s VITAS before applying, bank statements now requiredOne aim of the new online system is to eliminate the current need for the in-country Telex preapproval notification for Temporary Stay Visas (VITAS) before employees and their dependents can apply for their VITAS at overseas Indonesian consular posts. In preparation, the DGI has already refined the process for the Telex VITAS approval and consular filings.While there has been no formal policy change, authorities are now requiring dependents of employees to await issuance of the employee’s VITAS before filing for their own VITAS. This differs from past practice, where applications for both the employee and their dependents were filed simultaneously. Foreign nationals bringing families with them to Indonesia should now plan for an additional 7 to 10 business days to obtain their family members’ VITAS and adjust travel plans accordingly.
In a related change, some authorities have also begun requesting bank statements covering the previous three months for the company or the employee to demonstrate a minimum balance of USD 1,500. Again, there has been no formal announcement of this new requirement; but it is now a frequent request, and applicants should plan ahead to avoid processing delays.
Third-Party representatives can file on behalf of companiesPreviously, Pro-Link GLOBAL reported on a DGI announcement which purported to no longer allow third-party representatives to act on behalf of companies to file applications processed at local immigration offices. See our Immigration Dispatch of 21 November for more details. This would have been a significant inconvenience for companies employing foreign nationals in Indonesia, requiring company representatives to appear personally at immigration offices at various steps in the process. At that time, we believed there was a “strong possibility” that the DGI would reconsider the wisdom of that decision and reverse it, and our belief was apparently well-founded. On 21 November, the DGI issued another announcement reversing its prior decision, and once again allowing third-party representatives to handle application processing on behalf of companies employing foreign workers. The announcement simply adds one additional requirement to the previous requirement of a Power of Attorney to act on the company’s behalf: third-party representatives must now also present a copy of the ID card of a company director. In general, Indonesia’s work and residence authorization and entry process is among the more complex, with more than a dozen distinct steps over a three to five-month process. With the coming changes as the DGI transitions to its new system, it will be imperative that companies and their foreign employees be in close communication with Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists who are well-versed in Indonesia’s unique process.
Immigration changes from around the world
India – expanded E-Visa to attract more business travellersIn action taken on 28 November, the Indian Union Cabinet approved measures to expand the scope of its current “e-tourist” visa program to include business travellers and medical tourists. With its expanded scope, the electronic visa is being renamed the “eVisa” and the permissible stay expanded from the current 30 days to 60 days. Eight additional nations will be added to the eligible list, bringing the total to 158 countries. The visa’s previous two-entry limitation each year continues to apply to business and tourist visitors; but it has been expanded to three entries each year for medical visitors. Hopefully, once the new program takes full effect, authorities may consider expanding the permissible uses each year for business travellers as well.As of the date of writing, the Ministry of Home Affairs had yet to announce the implementation date for these changes or add the new details to its online application process. The move is designed to boost international trade and commerce to India, and similar pro-business immigration reforms are likely to follow over the coming months. Per a government press release issued after the cabinet meeting, “The Union Cabinet has given its approval for liberalisation, simplification and rationalisation of the existing visa regime in India and incremental changes in the visa policy decided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with various stakeholders.”Pro-Link GLOBAL is enthusiastic about the prospects of improved corporate mobility to India and is continuing to track the developments from our New Delhi Office.
Qatar – revisions to kafala system will hopefully benefit foreign workersA new law, enacted in October 2015, will finally come into force on 14 December, making major revisions to Qatar’s “kafala system.” The new law, first advertised in Qatar’s Official Gazette on 13 December 2015 with an effective date of one year later, amends aspects of Qatar’s Labour Law which human rights organisations criticise as being akin to modern-day slavery.Versions of the kafala system, or “sponsorship system,” exist in the laws of most Middle Eastern and Gulf nations, though some – notably, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – have made recent positive reforms. The kafala laws are often justified as a necessity to manage the massive foreign worker populations of those countries, which in the case of Qatar, constitutes 94 per cent of the private labour force. However, critics argue that the laws giving employers sole control of employees’ ability to change or leave employers, or to obtain exit visas to leave the country, lead to exploitation and abuse. While the new reforms in Qatar stop short of addressing all the injustices, they do appear an earnest and significant move in the right direction. Several of the most significant reforms are as follows:
- Employees may apply directly to the Ministry of Interior for exit visas to leave the country, without going through their employers, though notice and consent of their employers is still required
- Employees may change employers at the end of their current contracts, or after five years working for the initial employer where the contract is open-ended. There is no longer a two-year ban on obtaining a new work visa if the employee leaves the employer without consent
- A “Foreign Nationals Exit Grievances Council” has been created to resolve disputes when employers prevent employees from obtaining exit visas
- Numerous improvements to working conditions have been mandated, including limits on working hours and overtime pay
- Heavier fines and jail terms now apply to employers who engage in prohibited acts, such as allowing their foreign employees to work for third-parties without official authorization, or employers holding or taking passports of foreign workers without consent.