In 2015, President Jokowi decided to create a visa-free policy for foreigners who wanted to visit Indonesia. Currently, there are 169 nationalities that are free to stay for 30 days in the archipelago without a visa upon the arrival.
Since Jokowi implemented the policy, it has consistently sparked arguments among politicians and locals related to the country’s profit and loss. The policy was originally signed due to President Jokowi’s aim at boosting the country’s tourism revenue.
While it’s true that the visa-free policy has increased the number of tourists in Indonesia, many argued that it does not seem to benefit the country. Since the president officially signed the policy, the country has lost around Rp.1 trillion (approximately US$75 million) per year in national income from visa-related fees.
Additionally, visa violations have been increasing due to this policy. One politician from Partai Amanat Nasional Saleh P. Daulay audaciously claimed that the number of Chinese tourists has increased from 256 per day to approximately 75,000 per day. Experts and stakeholders are sure to look at this claim with severe skepticism (the math doesn’t seem to make sense) but still acknowledge there has indeed been an increase in the number of Chinese tourists.
While an uptick seems great for Indonesia’s popularity, it has actually increased the number of recorded immigration violations with the majority of them coming from Chinese citizens.
Nawafie Saleh, a member of Commission III of the House of Representatives, has been actively pushing the president to revise the visa-free policy. Saleh told the government that he has even seen immigration violations in the rural area of Bogor. Reportedly, 12 overstayed Chinese workers were found digging for galena tin illegally. To make matters worse, they had been doing so for at least six months.
In addition to that, there was a recent case regarding cyber fraud that involved at least 59 Chinese expats in Indonesia. Right now, police are investigating whether these expats also violated the visa-free policy.
It is a common fact that China sells its products in Indonesia at cheaper prices. Chief of Muhammadiyah Buya Syafii Maarif is concerned that incoming Chinese citizens may swamp the country with illegal workers. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of unemployment among local citizens rose up to 7 million people.
It is true that there is no direct link between the unemployment rate and the increasing number of illegal Chinese workers in Indonesia. However, as numerous politicians and locals are blaming the visa-free policy for this, it is advised to take extra precaution if you’re a Chinese expat.
Saleh, along with other politicians have successfully convinced the president to revise his visa-free policy. The president mentioned that he will change the regulation for some countries, but we have yet to learn which ones they will be.