Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Australians have been granted free entry to Indonesia for up to 30 days, after years of policy backflips.
"Seriously, for real this time," was local news website Coconuts Jakarta's tongue-in-cheek headline to the news Australians will no longer have to pay $US35 ($46) for a visa on arrival.
Australians will finally be exempt from paying for visas on arrival in Indonesia.
On previous occasions Australia has been included among countries to be granted free entry, only to be withdrawn from the list at the 11th hour. This time the announcement, which took effect March 22, has come from the highest possible level.
Late last week President Joko Widodo signed a decree waiving visa requirements for another 79 countries, including Australia, bringing the list of visa-free countries to 169.
"Indonesia's decision to add Australia to the list of countries visa-free is smart and timely," ambassador Paul Grigson said.
"We expect it to add approximately 3.4 trillion Rupiah ($239 million) into the economy of Indonesia."
More than 1 million Australians already visit Indonesia every year, contributing 18 trillion rupiah ($1.8 billion) to the local economy.
The visa-free policy is part of a plan to lure more visitors to Indonesia, as the government aims to attract at least 20 million foreign tourists to the country over the next five years.
Australians who wish to stay in Indonesia for longer than 30 days or to conduct "journalistic activities" are still required to apply for a visa in Australia.
Indonesia recorded a 19 per cent increase in tourists from countries that received visa-free access in 2015.
In September, the Indonesian tourism minister again promised Australians would be granted visa-free access, before leaving them out of the policy that began on October 1.
In November the Australian government said it would introduce an option of a three-year, multiple-entry visa for Indonesian visitors to Australia in 2016 – an extension of the current one-year visa.
The government would also expand online visa lodgement to all Indonesian citizens by 2017, making the process of applying for an Australian visa simpler for Indonesian tourists and business people.
But Indonesia Institute president Ross Taylor said it was astonishing that while Australians would enjoy visa-free entry to Indonesia, the Australian government would still demand Indonesians pay $130 per person just to apply for a tourist visa.
"Then add to that we tell Indonesians to complete some 15 pages of questions per person," he said. "And we wonder why so many Indonesians choose to travel elsewhere on holidays."
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