For those planning to live in Bali for longer than 60 days, one of the most popular visa options is the Social-Cultural Visa, or Sosial Budaya. While you can typically plan ahead and obtain this type of Visa from your home country, you can also make arrangements for it once you arrive in Bali, so long as you leave the country for the application process and return within 3 months.
Having recently gone through this process ourselves, I can tell you that while the requirements may seem somewhat vague and tedious, the process is not really all that difficult. Below is the most recent information about how to get your Social-Cultural Visa after you’re already in Bali, but as always, we recommend checking around for the latest updates or changes.
Bali: How to Get a Social-Cultural Visa
Keep the following information in mind before applying:
- You cannot receive a Social-Cultural Visa from within Indonesia! You must either apply in your home country, or from a country outside of Indonesia.
- If you’re already in Bali (on a 30 Day or 60 Day Visa On Arrival, for example), we recommend flying to Singapore, as the turn-around time is quick, the process is simple, and the flights from Bali are short and fairly inexpensive.
- A Social-Cultural Visa grants you an initial stay of 60 days in Bali, followed by 4 possible extensions, each for an additional 30 days, bringing your total stay to a maximum of 180 days.
- The Social-Cultural Visa is Single Entry, meaning that if you need to leave Indonesia for any reason (not just Bali, as travel within the country is permitted), you will need to start the process all over again before returning on the same type of Visa. If you know you’ll need to leave the country any time in the following 6 months, this is probably not the Visa for you.
- You are not permitted to conduct any type of business activity or take up employment on the Social-Cultural Visa. This also includes volunteer work.
Hiring a Visa Agent
While it is entirely possible to do everything yourself, in our opinion, it is worth the extra money to hire an agent to handle the paperwork, multiple trips to the immigration office, Singapore agent referrals, etc.
We chose Visa4Bali to handle our Social-Cultural Visas, which cost approximately $200 USD each and included the following:
- Sponsor Letter & I.D. – A Social-Cultural Visa requires an Indonesian resident to act as your sponsor. They are technically responsible for you, so make sure to be on your best behavior!
- 4 Regular Extensions – Instead of handling all of the extensions ourselves, we were only required to go to the immigration office one time for the very first extension (sometime before day 60) in order to get our photo taken and fingerprints scanned. A Visa4Bali courier picked up and held our passports for the remaining 3 extensions, though communication has been lacking and disorganized on their end. Make sure you contact them at least 7 business days before the deadline for your extensions as a reminder, and keep your receipts and emails for proof of payment!
- Recommended Agent in Singapore – One of the best perks of using an agent service was their referral for a Visa Agent in Singapore, Mike Kassim. He can be reached at email@example.com or +65 9816.2189 the day before you are set to arrive (or earlier), and will meet you at the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore with all of your required paperwork, outlined below. We met him at around 8am in the morning and picked up our Visas that same afternoon around 4pm, allowing us to catch an evening flight back to Bali. His service cost an additional $130 USD each, though the alternative (doing it yourself) requires a 2-3 day turnaround in Singapore, which is much more costly in the long run.
You will need to prepare the following documents for your agent in Singapore:
- Visa Application Form – The agent filled this out for us
- Sponsor Letter & I.D.
- Passport – Must have more than 6 months validity from reentry date
- Copy of ID page in Passport – Can be done anywhere in Bali, but we like SupaPrint in Legian
- Copy of Singapore Stamp page in Passport – You’ll need to do this once you arrive
- 2 Passport-Sized Photos Per Person – We got these done at Kodak Express in Kuta, Bali, located at the intersection of Jalan Raya Kuta and Jalan Kauripan
*Note: We were told we’d need to show copies of our plane ticket out of Singapore, but were never required to show them; therefore, this item is being left off the list.
Cost Breakdown, as of 2016:
$200 USD Bali agent fees +
$140 USD Singapore agent fees +
$170 USD round-trip flight to Singapore +
$65 USD for overnight accommodation, transportation and meals in Singapore =
$575 USD each for Social-Cultural Visa in Bali
Tips for Success:
Inevitably there are a lot of questions that come up during this process. Feel free to comment and ask about anything we may not have covered, and we’ll do our best to help!
- If you want to cut down on costs, you could choose the early morning flight from Bali to Singapore (6:20am on AirAsia), and technically get your Visa processed in time to fly back to Bali the same night, avoiding any accommodation and additional meal/transportation costs in Singapore.
- Check the Indonesia Embassy website for any upcoming holidays before you book your ticket to Singapore, as the embassy will likely be closed, causing delays in your stay.
- You will need to show an exit ticket out of Singapore before leaving Bali, but will not be required (at least in our case, flying with AirAsia) to show an exit ticket out of Indonesia within 180 days of your return. Simply tell the customs agent at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport that you will extend your Social-Cultural Visa after the initial 60 day stay, and plan to leave within 180 days (best to look at a calendar and come up with a date, just in case).
- Since our agent in Singapore handled everything for us, we did not have to dress up because we never entered the Embassy at all. Skip the dress pants – Singapore sits one degree north of the equator, and is very hot and humid! This will not be the case when applying yourself, however, and pants are supposedly a must.
- Once in Singapore, buy the Unlimited Tourist Pass (STP) for transportation within the city, which includes busses, the MRT and LRT ($10 SGD for 1 Day, $16 SGD for 2 Days).
- If staying in Singapore overnight, try to choose accommodation close the Indonesia Embassy, which is located at No. 7 Chatsworth Road. We found a nearby Airbnb rental on River Valley Rd. and simply walked to meet our agent at the Embassy the next morning. The nearest bus is the #75 with a stop on Grange Rd.
In the meantime, enjoy your time in Singapore – delicious chili crab, Singapore Slings, Little India, Chinatown and more await!