How to Get a Research Permit for Indonesia

As I mentioned in my bio information, I'm currently a PhD candidate doing research in Indonesia.  To do research here you have to go through an extensive process of getting permits and permissions, so I decided to create this page to serve as an informal guide for prospective researchers.  I didn't have anyone to help me out, so I had to learn as I went.  Hopefully this guide will help you avoid some of the mistakes and pitfalls that have marked my scholastic journey.  I've divided this guide into three sections: 1) submitting your proposal; 2) once you have approval and arrival; and 3) reporting.

  • You should get a lot of passport photos.  You probably won't ever have enough, but I would suggest that you get 30-40.  You're going to need 8 or so before you get to Indonesia.  THEY HAVE TO BE AGAINST A RED BACKGROUND.  The size should be 4cmx6cm, and I think maybe you need some 2cm x 3cm as well, but the 4x6 are the ones you'll need more of.  You can get them in Indonesia after you arrive if you want to save some money.
  • Once you get to Indonesia get 20-30 copies of the picture and current visa pages of your passport.  Also copy the front and back of the departure card which you will keep with your passport.  
  • Money.  This is an expensive process.
  • All the offices in Indonesia close early on Friday for prayers.  
  • Most things take more time than you would expect.  There are many inefficiencies built into the system, especially at immigration.  Budget time in anticipation of this.
  • Do things on Monday if possible.  That way you can come back to the offices during the week before Friday and not blow the weekend waiting on stuff.
  • CUTI BERSAMA.  This is really important.  Cuti bersama roughly means "shared holiday".  If a national holiday (there are lots of them) falls on Tuesday or Thursday, chances are the government will declare the preceding Monday or following Friday as cuti bersama.  This means the offices will be closed.  Thus think about this when you are doing your planning.  Cuti bersama can really throw a wrench in your plans.
  • Some offices close for lunch (like the post office).  Think about this when you are planning your day.  Also you probably won't be able to get as much done in one day in Jakarta as you might expect.  There's always something that gets in the way.  


While in Indonesia you will be under the authority of the Ministry of Research and Technology (RISTEK).  You have to submit your proposal through them and they will work hand in hand with you to get the permissions you need.  But there are some things you need to do first.

IA.  Find a local collaborator.  I don't know if you can do research in Indonesia without a sponsor.  You need to find an NGO, think-tank, university, or other entity that is willing to work with you.  Get them to write a letter on your behalf and make sure they understand what they are getting into.  It might help you to draft the letter for them, especially if you are asking for the letter in English.  Many folks are reluctant to write in English, and so it slows things down sometimes if you are waiting for a letter.

IB.  Submit your proposal to your embassy/consulate.  Before you go through RISTEK, you need to be approved by the embassy.  In the US there are several consulates, and each of them has a territory.  For Hawai'i it's the LA consulate, but you should call the one nearest you and find out which consulate you should go through.  They will also tell you who the officer in charge of research is.  You will then submit your documents to them. You will need the following:
  • Medical certificate showing that you are physically able to do the work and aren't disturbed.  I got this from UH's clinic.  It's a very basic form.
  • Description and valuation of all the equipment you are going to use.  Mine was very simple and only listed my laptop and voice recorder.  Yours will depend on the type of work you are doing.
  • Letter from your university certifying affiliation.  I used a letter from my department chair on university letterhead.
  • Letter of recommendation from your advisor.
  • Letter certifying that you have funding to do your project.  A fellowship acceptance letter would probably do it; I drafted a letter and had our graduate chair sign it and print it on letterhead.
  • CV
  • Proposal with bibliography
  • Abstract of proposal
  • Cover letter

IC.  Send your stuff to RISTEK in Indonesia.  After you get your endorsement from the embassy/consulate you will send your package to RISTEK.  You need 6 copies of EVERYTHING, and you also need to send all the documents along on a data CD.


IIA.  Getting your visa.  Before you come to Indonesia you need to get your research visa.  It is important to remember that YOU CAN'T GET IT ONCE YOU ARE IN THE COUNTRY.  You will either have to send you passport to the consulate/embassy or go there in person.  If you do go to Indonesia first, you'll have to leave to Singapore or KL to pick up the visa at the embassy there, and in that case you'll have to notify RISTEK to transfer the authorization to the new embassy, which takes a week or two.  I picked up my visa in Singapore, where it cost S$140.  Check with your embassy or consulate for the fee in US$. 

IIB.  Entering the country.  Once you come in the immigration officer will stamp your passport with a special stamp requiring you to visit the nearest immigration office within 7 days of arrival.  It's best to go in through Jakarta.  Before you go to the immigration office, you need to do the next step first.

IIC.  Visiting RISTEK.  JAKARTA.  Let them know you are coming because they have to prepare a bunch of letters for you.  You will also have to pay them; they take US$ and rupiah.  For PhD research the fee is $150.  If you pay with dollars take exact change, because they will give you change in IDR with a bad exchange rate.  They will give you the following:

IID.  Visiting immigration.  You need to go there and start the process to get a KITAS BARU. This particular step is going to take some time and you'll probably have to go to the immigration office 3-4 times.  I think it's probably best to do this in Jakarta so you can do some of the other things (below) while you are waiting.  I'll break this one up into sub-steps.
  •      Go to the immigration office.  Wear proper clothes; close-toed shoe, dress shirt, and long pants.  You will pay 5000 rupiah to get the blank kitas baru form.  Fill out the form and submit the following documentation.
    • Original permission letter from RISTEK.  They will want to keep a copy, but they also want to see the original.  In my experience there is no getting around this.
    • Letter from RISTEK to immigration.
    • Copy of the picture, current visa, and departure card from your passport
    • 2 4x6 pictures
  • Go again to immigration to pay.  They will give you a date to come back within a week of your first visit.  Note the hours the pay window is open.  You'll have to wait several times during this visit.  Go to the temporary stay permit window.  They will give you your file.  Then go and wait at the pay window.  After you pay go back to the temporary stay window to get photographed and fingerprinted.  Then go to the Kitas office and get the kitas itself.  Lastly, take the kitas and your file back down to the temporary stay window.  They will tell you to come back in a few days.  MAKE SURE TO ASK WHEN TO COME BACK, because this varies.  You will need:
    • 700,000 rupiah for the Kitas.  This is the one-year fee.  The two year fee is more.
    • 55,000 rupiah for photos for the Kitas.  Even though you provide several pictures, immigration wants to take their own.
    • 5,000 rupiah for the kitas book.  
  • On the third trip you can pick up your blue book and your passport.  In your passport you'll find that they've stapled your temporary stay permit.  It's not laminated, so be careful with it.  Before you leave the immigration office MAKE SURE that all the information is correct.  Also make sure that your departure card is still in your passport.  
    IIIE.  KAPOLDA.  RISTEK will give you an official letter to report to the headquarters of the police of your district.  You have to go there and  report to the officer in charge of foreigners.

    IIIF.  MABES POLRI.  JAKARTA.  FREE.  Go here to get your traveling permit (surat keterangan jalan, SKJ).  "MABES" stands for "markas besar" (main headquarters); "POLRI" is "Polisi Republik Indonesia".  This is in Jakarta down towards BLOK M.  Get off the busway at the Masjid stop.  Then walk towards Blok M and turn left at ASEAN headquarters.  MABES POLRI is a couple of large buildings down.  It takes 10-15 minutes to walk there from the busway.  Here you need to register with the intelligence body.  RISTEK will give you a formal letter.  This step requires 2 visits to MABES: the first to fill out the forms and the second to take you permission card for traveling within the country.  Sometimes you can come back in the afternoon for the second visit, but count on coming back the next day.  You'll have to fill out a form.
    • Take the letter from RISTEK
    • 2 4x6 photos
    • copy of picture and visa pages from your passport and copy of both sides of the departure card.
    On your second visit you'll receive a letter with your picture on it.  This is the SKJ.  Make some photocopies of this because you'll need it for the next couple of visits.
      IIIG.  Ministry of the Interior.  Jakarta.  FREE.  You have to go here to get the "Surat Pemberitahuan Penelitian" or SPP.  The ministry is located near Gambir station by MONAS between the Army headquarters and the Supreme Court.  Go to the 4th floor of the new building in the back of the Ministry of Interior campus to the Kewaspedaan office. 
      • Take the letter from RISTEK
      • 2 4x6 photos
      • Copy of passport, KITAS, etc.
      • Copy of SKJ
      They will give you your letters after 3 days or so, so you have to go back.  They gave me 5 letters in different envelopes.  One for RISTEK, one for MABESPOLRI, two for the KAPOLDA and governor of the province where I'm doing my research, and one to carry around.  You should get copies made of the letter you get to carry around because it will be needed in the next step. 

      IIIH.  Ministry of Forestry.  Jakarta.  My project relates to national parks, which are under the Ministry of Forestry, so I was required to report there.  If you are doing something related to a protected area you must get a SIMAKSI permit, which stands for something like "surat untuk masuk ke kawasan".  Your reporting requirements will depend on your project, but RISTEK will let you know where you need to go and who you need to take to. The Ministry of Forestry is by the Parliament building.  You will need the following:
      • Copy of your proposal
      • Copy of SKJ
      • Copy of SPP
      • Copy of all the passport and kitas pages
      • Copy of the letter from the interior ministry.
      • 2 6,000 rupiah stamps from the post office
      This step will require two visits as well.  When you go the first time they will give you a simple form to fill out.  You affix one of the postal tax stamps to the form and sign over the stamp.

      IIIEYE.  Kepala desa/dusun/kelurahan etc.  Free.  Once you get settled in the place where you are going to do your field work you will need to report to the local authorities.  In my case I first reported to the head of the Dusun (below the desa), and he then took me to the Desa (village office).  You have to get a stamped letter from one or the other which will require a 4x6 photo.  In my case they made the letter right there while I waited and stamped it with the official seal.  You need this letter later on.
      • passport copy
      • kitas copy
      • blue book copy
      • letter from the interior ministry
      • 4x6 photo with red background. 
      IIIJ.  POLRES.  Free.  POLRES stands for Polisi Residency.  This is the kabupaten-level cops.  You have to report here.  In my case they have a special officer whose duty it is to monitor foreigners.  He was very interested in me because there are only 4 foreigners in his jurisdiction.  We've since become friends.  They will give you a letter that signifies you have reported.
      • passport, kitas, bluebook copies
      • copy of letter from interior ministry
      • If you have a local sponsor or friend, they will need to sign for you as well.
      • copy of letter from MABES POLRI
      • 4x6 or maybe 3x4 photo.  By this point you should have a bunch of both sizes.
      IIIK.  KESBANGPOLLINMAS.  Free.  This stands for something like Kesatuan bangsa politik dan lingungan masyarakat.  It is a kabupaten-level office.  You need to report here too.  In my case I had to report to two different ones because the town I live in has been pemekaraned off from the surrounding region, but the regency office is still in the town.  They will give you a letter that signifies that you reported.  Check the requirements because they seem to vary from place to place.  You will have to go again to pick up the letter.

      IIIL. Governor's office.  6000rp.  KEMENDAGRI will give you a letter addressed to the governor.  Go to the provincial capital (actually you can do this when you report to POLDA above). 
      • Passport, kitas, bluebook copies
      • 4x6 passport photo
      • letter from interior ministry
      • Copy of proposal. 
      • Letter from your collaborating institution


        Periodic reporting is required.