The efficiency of bureaucracy

Let me start this post by giving you the conclusion: The title is a lie. There is nothing efficient about bureaucracy. Nothing at all.

In the past four months I have been to the immigration office eleven times. Take some time to let that sink in. Every time you want to extend you visa, you have to go to the office three times. Or, if you are lucky, as I was, you get an interview, and get to hang out with the workers there four times!
This is globally how the extension process works (at least for the socio-cultural visa I am here on):

Step 1: You go to the immigration office. Which on its own can be quite a challenge, given the morning traffic in Jakarta. There, you go to a random counter to ask for the extension forms, and they will point you to the counter that hands these out. If you are expecting signs to make things easier for you… well, there just aren’t any.
So once you get the form, a lot of websites tell you to go home and collect the proper documents, and then go back the next day and hand them in. Don’t. I will tell you what documents you need, and all you need to do is bring a pen when you go there for the first time, so you can fill that lovely form in, right then and there. And when I say bring a pen, I mean bring a pen. Don’t forget it. Because there are no pens lying around, and only if you ask the receptionist really nicely, they will loan you their pen. But they will watch you write everything down and wait impatiently until they get their belonging back, so this option may cause you some stress (it did for me). So bring a pen!
And also bring the following documents:

  • Your sponsor letter
  • A copy of the passport of your sponsor
  • A copy of your passport (don’t know why, because they also want your actual passport – see next point)
  • Your passport
  • The printed confirmation of your flight leaving the country
  • Details of your stay (addresses, phone numbers, email addresses of all people involved. In my case, the address of the office where my internship is – and my own of course)

You can hand in the documents, together with the form and they will tell you to come back two days later.

Step 2: Go back two days later. Working days that is. Don’t show up on a Saturday if your first visit was on Thursday.
If you are lucky, today you will get to proceed to step 3 immediately. If you are unlucky, you will have to do an interview. Sometimes they say it is random, sometimes they say it is because they have a question about your documents, but what I can say for certain is that they won’t save the notes they take during the interview, because I had to do one twice. It was kind of a test for my patience, because they asked me all the same questions. Anyway, if you have an interview, they will need another day to process that (i.e. put the paper in the correct folder) and you will have to come back the next day.

Step 3: On this day, you will have to go back for two activities. First, you will have to pay. For an extension it costs IDR 355.000 (December 2015). Second, you have to take a picture and give them your finger prints. Of course, the queues for this are kind of long, so bring something to entertain yourself.
And mind you, you only have to take the pictures the first time you extend. Because of the slow process and their lack of methods to save documents (like my interview notes), I assumed you also had to do the photos every time. So for my second extension I waited to get my picture taken for half an hour and then they told me it was not necessary to do it twice. So I wasted some time there.

Step 4: The last day (for this month at least). You get to pick up your pasport with an amazing new stamp, waiting to be admired by you and all of your friends.
So all in all, my advice would be to live close to an immigration office, because you will be there a lot. And if you have to travel to go there and back for hours, your life will be unnecessarily hard and those nice immigration officers (who also spend a lot of time on their phones, until you show up at their desk) will not show you any mercy.

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