Why make it easy when you can make it hard?

Getting an Indonesia Research Permit

When I was first told that I would need a research permit to do field research in Indonesia, I thought: “Easy. I will just fill in this online form, book the flight and off I go. “ It’s not that easy. For a European citizen like me, who hardly ever needs to apply for visa, it was not easy at all. The whole process reminded me of Asterix and Obelix running from desk to desk and office to office in the “house that drives you mad” searching for permit A38 in “The Twelve Tasks”.

Before you can do research in Indonesia, you have to undergo a bureaucratic, slow and quite expensive process – both before and after entering Indonesia. The process consists of three steps:

  1. Applying for the research permit and visa from your country of residence.
  2. Obtaining the research permit, KITA, travel permit and some other permits upon arrival in Indonesia.
  3. Applying for the permit to exit Indonesia and handing in the final research report.

Before you go: “Pre-Arrival Procedures”

The first step in obtaining a research visa is to apply for a research permit at the Kementerian RISet dan TEKnologi (Ministry of Research and Technology). On their website (http://frp.ristek.go.id), RISTEK provides an overview of the application process:

Screen shot 2014-06-16 at 11.28.11 AM

That makes it clear, doesn’t it?

Here’s what you have to do:

A) Find a collaborator in Indonesia. It is currently not possible to conduct research in Indonesia without a local partner.

B) Gather the following documents:

1. Formal request to do research in Indonesia.

2. Health certificate from a medical doctor stating that you are both physically and mentally able to conduct research in Indonesia.

My doctor was a bit puzzled by this request, but in the end set up a basic form stating that in her opinion as a practitioner I was able to conduct research.

3. Detailed research proposal including a list of all the sites where field research will be conducted

4. List of equipment (and its value in US $) that will be brought to Indonesia.

5. Letter of Acceptance from Indonesian counterpart

6. Recommendation letter from a professor or equivalent senior researcher in your research field

7. Letter guaranteeing sufficient funding to cover the expenses for the various permits as well as cost of living.

8. Curriculum vitae (CV) including a list of publications.

9. A letter of recommendation from an Indonesian Representative abroad.

In my case the closest Indonesian Representative was the Attaché for Cultural and Educational Affairs at the Indonesian Embassy in Den Hague. I called the embassy first to figure out to whom to address my request and then send Documents 1-8 to the embassy. A few days later, I received the recommendation letter by email (in Indonesian!).

10. Recommendation letter from a researcher at your home institute or university.

Yes, you will need two recommendation letters!

11. A passport copy. Note: The passport must be valid for at least six months after the date of completing research in Indonesia.

12. Passport photos with RED BACKGROUND.

Throughout the whole process you will need many, many passport photos with red background – in two different formats (2×3 cm, and 4×6 cm)! Get at least twenty 4×6 cm and ten 2×3 cm photographs (or take an agency).

13. Address of the embassy where the research visa will be collected. It needs to be collected outside of Indonesia.

Make sure that the address in complete. Otherwise your application will not be processed, though nobody will inform you that there is a problem.

14. If you plan to bring your spouse and children to Indonesia, you need the following documents: a copy of your marriage certificate, your spouse’s curriculum vitae, children’s birth certificate, four recent photographs of each family member and a copy of the family members’ passports.

C) Got all the documents?

Next, create an account on the RISTEK homepage and upload your application documents. For each item, a popup window opens telling you the required file format (only .jpeg or .zip are accepted) and maximum size (small, all .jpeg have to be in low resolution (72 dpi)).

When you have uploaded your documents, ask your collaborator to check with RISTEK whether they have received the documents and will start the application process. RISTEK will NOT contact you if documents are missing or unclear. They will simply not proceed with your application.

Also, ask your collaborator to call RISTEK from time to time to inquire about the status of your application! I have sent them at least 20 emails. Not a single one was answered.

Once, RISTEK has approved your research permit, they will publish this on their website and ask the immigration to issue your visa.

D) Approximately, one month after the approval of the research permit, you will receive an email from RISTEK that your research permit was approved and that you can pick up the visa at the embassy.

The embassy in Den Hague had a three-week waiting time before I would have been able to pick up my visa. To speed up this process, I authorized an agency (www.visuminternational.nl) to handle the visa uptake for me. These agencies have reserved slots and can obtain your visa a lot quicker.

When you arrive in Indonesia: “Post-Arrival Procedures”

You thought the pre-arrival scheme was complicated? Look at the office marathon that RISTEK proposes as post-arrival procedure. This needs to be done BEFORE starting with your research project.

Post-Arrival Procedure

Post-Arrival Procedure

By the time I arrived in Jakarta, I was horrified of more bureaucracy. I had already missed the first sampling mission to Kalimantan and did not want to risk missing the next sampling mission on West, Central and East Java. So I did it the Indonesian way. I hired an agency to help me with the paperwork. Eja and Opik from Lautan Hutan Kayu ((LAHUKA) – http://indo-expedition-services.webeden.co.uk) helped me to find my way through the bureaucratic jungle.

Within two days, they had provided me with the research permit from RISTEK and the travelling permit from the police that allowed me to start with the field trips while they took care of the rest of the paperwork.

Research Permit from RISTEK.

Research Permit from RISTEK.

Before you leave – Applying for the exit permit.

Do not forget to apply for the permit to exit Indonesia at least TWO weeks before you are planning to leave the country. You do this by writing an email to RISTEK asking for permission to leave the country with your final research report attached.

(Nobody will keep you from leaving the country without the exit permit, but the Immigration office will give you a hard time if you should ever try to enter Indonesia again.)