Employers want red tape slashed for expatriate workers

Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The complicated and time-consuming immigration system for employing expatriates is turning off investors and needs urgent reform, employers say.

According to the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), processing work and stay permits for foreigners means navigating one's way through a maze of bureaucracy in which there are few clear rules of engagement. The pitfalls usually involve corrupt officials manipulating overlapping regulations to their benefit, with a mass of paperwork and meaningless technicalities slowing down what should be a relatively straightforward process.

"Foreign investors or expatriates are required to have a stay visa and a work permit in hand. It sounds simple but in reality they have to deal with a great number of offices to get recommendations and other minor documents to obtain the two main documents, consuming time and money. Most expatriates or their company sponsors have to pay up to Rp 50 million (US$5,000) a person and wait until two or three months for the two documents' to be issued," secretary general Djimanto told The Jakarta Post here recently.

The vague and overlapping nature of the regulations only encouraged corruption, Djimanto said.

For many years, Apindo has called for the government to review the complicated 1995 Visa Index Law for temporary work permits for foreigners because the regulations were being misused by immigration staff to extort expatriates and their sponsors.

Under the law, expatriates must apply for immigration permits if their work takes them between provinces and must report regularly to the police, immigration, manpower and population registry offices.

"Expatriates and their sponsor companies are open to such supervision but it is extremely disruptive and time-wasting if officers from the different offices come every week and ask for money," Djimanto said.

The immigration department should issue only one work visa, allowing investors and expatriates to move freely around the country like the single EntryPass given to expatriates living and working in Singapore, he said. The expensive-but-streamlined process takes less than two weeks.

Apindo called for the revision of the Ministerial Decree No. 20 on documentation procedures because it contravened the spirit of free trade and was "more restrictive than selective".

"We are in need of foreign investors and expatriates to help accelerate economic growth and speed up the transfer of technology, specialized skills and knowledge to locals," Djimanto said.

The imposition of a monthly US$100 tax on expatriates to offset the cost for training local workers should also be abolished because it was ineffective.

"The government has collected billions of dollars from around 40,000 expatriates living here during the past three decades but no locals have been trained under the so-called skills and development program."

Other laws the government should revise included the 2003 Labor Law, Presidential Decree No. 75/1995 on the employment of expatriates and Ministerial Decree No. 228/1995 restricting jobs for expatriates, Djimanto said.

The latter is expected to be revised this month.
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