Alright, so you’ve decided to make the jump. And by jump I mean the kajillion and a half hour flight it takes to get to Bali if you’re not already living in the near vicinity of the giant wonder that is Asia. Sweet! But lest you think otherwise, moving anywhere that is not your home country certainly comes with its own set of challenges, both legally and otherwise. Enjoy our detailed visa advice for moving to Bali, and best of luck.
Visa Advice for Moving to Bali
First thing’s first – no matter how long you plan on staying, you cannot fly into Bali, and more specifically the Ngurah Rai International Airport, on a one way ticket. This is true almost anywhere in the world, and laws about how long you’re allowed to stay on a simple Tourist Visa, also known as a Visa On Arrival (VOA), change all the time.
Do a little research, join Facebook groups of people who currently live where you’re moving – Ubud Community and Bali Expats are particularly useful ones for Bali – and find out as much as you can without driving yourself insane before you arrive.
Keep the following in mind if you want to stay for…
30 Days or Less:
- As of June 2015, residents of 45 countries need no Visa at all to enter Indonesia, including those from the United States. This means that you can simply arrive in Bali (with a ticket out within 30 days, with the day you arrive counting as day 1), and go on your merry way, skipping any kind of Visa forms or lines within the airport. If you plan on staying in Bali for 30 days or less, this eliminates any kind of fees or paperwork, so take advantage of it and enjoy your sweet ass vacation.
- If you accidentally (or non-accidentally) overstay your welcome beyond the initial 30 days, the fine is IDR 200,000, or roughly $15, per day. Don’t be a goofus and learn how to count to 30. You’ve got this.
60 Days or Less:
- If you plan on staying more than 30 days, here’s where it gets slightly more complicated – Bali allows you to extend your Visa on Arrival an extra 30 days, for a total of 60 days (again, with the day you arrive counting as day 1), one time. However, this does not apply if you take advantage of the free Visa on Arrival. So if you plan on staying in Bali for anywhere from 30 to 60 days, wait in the line and pay the $35 fee at the airport (in U.S. dollars) to get the standard VOA stamp in your passport so that you may extend it later on at one of the three immigration offices on Bali.
- Updated: I’ve written a much more detailed post about each step of the Bali VOA extension process. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions.
- Note: If you think you might want to stay longer than the initial 60 days, say, by re-entering on a Social or Business Visa, you can book a one way plane ticket out of Indonesia to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, where these types of Visas are processed frequently and quickly. We simply bought a one way ticket to Singapore for day 57 of our stay, which seemed to work just fine. You can get tickets for fairly cheap ($50 to $100 per person, per way) on AirAsia, Jetstar or KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. It pays to plan ahead, so book this flight as soon as you book your ticket into Bali for the best results, ideally with a bit of a window in case flights are delayed or cancelled at the last minute.
6 Months (180 Days) or Less:
- From everything I’ve read, and I’ve read an exhausting amount on the subject, the easiest way to stay in Bali longer than 30 to 60 days at a time without getting sponsored by a Balinese employer is to get a Social-Cultural Visa, or Sosial Budaya.
- Because you cannot be granted a Social-Cultural Visa from within Indonesia, most people choose to apply from their home countries through the Indonesian Embassy closest to them before they arrive. We did not plan that far ahead, however. If you do, and are willing to put in the time, money and energy to get all of your documents together and Visa granted ahead of time, it will save you the cost of a round trip plane ticket from Indonesia, likely to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.
- For the slackers like us, pay the $35 for your 30 Day VOA, extend it another 30 days at the local immigration office, find a legitimate Visa agent in Bali, and plan on getting it all squared away later.
- Updated: I have now written a very detailed post about how to get a Social Cultural Visa for Bali, which we did with the help of our Visa agent in Bali, different agent in Singapore, and by following all of the necessary steps for the next 180 days of our valid stay in Bali.
- Keep in mind that in order to stay this long, you must be ‘sponsored’ by an Indonesian resident, who essentially vouches for you to be able to stay in the country for an extended length of time. They must provide a sponsorship letter and copy of their ID, while you’ll need to provide a photocopy of multiple passport pages along with 2 passport-sized photos, the Visa application form, and your actual passport with at least 6 months of validity. It sounds more complicated than it is, and your Visa agent is likely to handle most of the tedious parts of the process, all for a fee, of course.
- Another important note – even if you successfully get a Social-Cultural Visa to stay in Bali for a total of 180 days (60 days granted initially, then renewable 4 additional times for 30 days each), you are still not allowed to work in Bali. Digital nomads, a category I begrudgingly fit into these days (it’s the ‘mixologist’ of the blogger world, I suppose), are still in the grey area, however. So if you’re self-employed or employed through a foreign company and make money online, you’re technically still good to go. This just means that you can’t get a job running tours of the island, as a scuba dive instructor, waitress, english tutor, etc., without at least a mild to serious chance of deportation. Tread lightly.
Also, immigration officers have recently been called out by the Bali Tourism Communities to start cracking down on illegal workers in Bali, specifically those who are working on a Social-Cultural Visa, or even the 30 and 60 day VOA. If you’re moving here and seeking employment, go through the (more difficult, tedious and expensive) process of either getting sponsored by a business or getting on the appropriate Visa. You do not want to be arrested, fined or deported for breaking the laws in Indonesia.
Good luck, and holler if you think I can be of any more help. Happy moving, y’all.