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Getting Indonesian Citizenship Via a Child's Mother

Many foreign men and their Indonesian wives welcomed the new law passed in 2006 that allowed children of mixed parentage to become Indonesians regardless of which parent is the Indonesian citizen. Indonesia permits dual citizenship until age 18. They may choose one citizenship or the other at age 18, but must choose by age 21.

I'm an American and spend most of the year on-and-off in my wife's hometown of Klaten, located midway between Yogyakarta (Yogya) and Surakarta (Solo). The town is not so small anymore, and over a million souls are registered within the kabupaten.

Those who have taken the opportunity to go outside Jakarta for extended periods know that things are done differently. In the capital, Rp 100,000 is only lunch money, but outside large cities, it is a significant gift. Even if one never pays a bribe directly, gifts of this size are typically rolled into fees charged by agents. In Central Java, for example, the agent's fee is generally less than the official fee. So, it is standard to pay less than double the official fee for most immigration services handled by an agent.

However, let me state for the record that nobody in the government offices in Semarang, Solo, or Klaten asked to be fed any "extra fees" during the entire process of obtaining naturalization for my daughters. The only extra expenses (aside from transportation and photocopying) that I incurred were snacks I bought for the staff in two of the offices, ranging in cost from Rp 20,000 to 40,000.

The following sequence should be understood as a single case, because variation will exist from family to family depending on documentation and other circumstances. As of this writing, the implementation of the law is still new and my experience should be understood as a guideline. The reader needs to verify all of the requirements and procedures that I mention. I take no responsibility for omissions or other errors.

Martin Schell
Klaten, Central Java
May 30, 2007

For our family, the passage of Undang-Undang Nomor 12 in July 2006 came with perfect timing. My older daughter was starting first grade at a public school that month and the principal accepted her as eligible without question (or bribery). In addition, the new law circumvented the need to register her with the police -- a regulation instituted early in 2006 requires all foreign residents over the age of 6 to be fingerprinted.

However, it was difficult to get clear information about when and how my daughters could exercise their new right to become Indonesian citizens. In September 2006, the Kantor Imigrasi (Immigration Office) in our provincial capital Semarang said that they expected implementation to occur "early next year".

Returning to Central Java after a January trip to New York, I heard that applications for naturalization were now being accepted. I went to the Kantor Wilayah (Kanwil) District Office in Semarang early in February and obtained the application packet, which consists of a stof map folder and a blank form called Lampiran I (Attachment number 1). Forms and folder should be free. I was asked to complete the form via computer: type in the questions, fill in our answers, and then output hardcopy.

I was also informed about the documents we needed to provide for each child, in triplicate. The official went through a pre-printed checklist and explained which of the 8 items were needed -- some could be omitted due to the children's age and situation. She told me that I had to bring notarized photocopies. Here is the list of items:

1. photocopy of the child's birth certificate
2. declaration that the child is not yet married
3. photocopy of the kartu tanda penduduk (KTP identity card) of Indonesian parent
4. six (6) color prints of a photo of the child (size 4 x 6 cm)
5. photocopy of marriage certificate (and any divorce and/or death certificate)
6. photocopy of court decree regarding guardianship or adoption
7. photocopy of KTP if child is over 17 and is a resident of Indonesia
8. photocopy of kartu keluarga (KK family registration card)

Regarding item 8, it is acceptable to submit a KK that does not list the child, because some kelurahan (such as ours) refuse to include foreign children on the card even though it has columns for specifying nationality and residence permit number.

Fortunately, an American friend who lives in Solo was about to go to Surabaya and did me the favor of getting 6 notarized copies of the photo page of my passport, saving me the time and expense of traveling to the US Consulate myself.

Local notarization was also done "while you wait" but the cost was much cheaper than at the consulate -- the highest fee was Rp 1,000 per copy at the Catatan Sipil (Civil Registry). The kelurahan did not charge, and the Bu Lurah did not ask for a "donation". At the kecamatan office, I just gave some fruit to the staff and did not meet the chief at all -- he signed everything in a matter of minutes.

Less than a week after getting the application packets, I returned to Semarang and submitted all the documentation. Shortly after I arrived home that afternoon, I received a call from the official who had received the applications. She told me that we had to provide a notarized copy of our American marriage license, because the document we had received from the Catatan Sipil was only a pemberitahuan (announcement), not a kutipan akte perkawinan certificate (nor a buku nikah -marriage booklet).

So, I could not avoid a trip to Surabaya after all. I went there soon afterward and paid for notarization of 6 copies of our US marriage license (which in New York State is a permit to wed, requested before the actual ceremony).

Permit a digression here, which will be useful for foreigners who are not yet married to Indonesians and are contemplating the leap. In 1974, Indonesia passed a law forbidding marriage between partners who have different religions.

To circumvent this gangguan (interference) of the state in one's private life, a couple can marry outside the country and then bring the certificate to Indonesia, applying for a pemberitahuan at the local Catatan Sipil. This is a fairly simple matter that requires the couple to write a cover letter providing factual information about the wedding and to attach a copy of the foreign marriage license (which we got notarized by the nearest Indonesian Consulate before returning to this country).

For most purposes within Indonesia (e.g., requesting a sosial budaya visa sponsored by one's spouse), the pemberitahuan is accepted as the equivalent of an Indonesian marriage certificate. However, naturalization is not one of those purposes. The original foreign marriage license must be presented to the relevant embassy or consulate in Indonesia, and copies notarized there.

Shortly after bringing the notarized copies to Semarang, I was informed that our applications were complete and had been forwarded to Jakarta. The official date of delivery from Kanwil Semarang was February 8, 2007 even though I did not provide the notarized copies of the marriage license until a week later. We were told that the process "is supposed to take 4-6 weeks" but nobody outside Jakarta had received citizenship yet. My daughters were #11 and #12 among all applicants in Central Java.

At the end of March, I was called to Semarang in order to pay the official registration fee of Rp 500,000 per applicant. This fee appears on a printed page that I was shown at the Kanwil in February, which lists numerous fees for various services. I had been told then that the fee was payable upon acceptance (i.e., granting of citizenship), but now I was told "there's still no word about the success of your application".

Consequently, I had to file a penanguhan (delay) at Kantor Imigrasi Solo because my younger daughter's birthday is early in April and her ITAS residence permit would expire then. This was also a fairly straightforward process, requiring only a formulaic cover letter, photocopies of documents, and Rp 10,000 for the ubiquitous stof map.

When I returned from a US trip at the end of April, I sent an SMS text message to the Kanwil official who had received our applications, asking her about their status. I mentioned that another penanguhan would have to be filed in a few days. I received a reply at 8:30 the same morning, informing me that the applications "have just been approved and can be picked up anytime".

It seemed strange to hear that something was done so early in the morning, but I left an hour later and made the three-hour journey to Semarang. I picked up the two-page surat kewarganegaraan (naturalization document) for each girl shortly after the Kanwil ended their lunch break.

The naturalization document for each child was dated March 30. Kanwil Semarang told me they had been holding the papers because they were hoping the Menteri Hak Asasi Manusia (Minister of Human Rights) would come to their city to present them in person. He had visited other cities recently, but not Semarang.

Because the penanguhan situation was urgent, Kanwil was kind enough to forget about the possible presentation ceremony and give me the documents. When I got home, I looked at the receipts for the Rp 500,000 registration fee and saw that each was dated March 30. In fact, they had requested the fee when citizenship was granted, but they did not inform me of the favorable decision at that time.

I was instructed by the section head at the Kanwil to bring the papers promptly to the Immigration Office in Solo, which I had to do anyway to conform to the 30-day validity of the original penanguhan. I believed the naturalization papers of my daughters were the first ones seen at Kantor Imigrasi Solo, but a Chinese Indonesian friend told me they looked virtually identical to what he had received there several decades ago.

Imigrasi in Solo then cabut (revoked) the ITAS of each daughter and issued a surat keterangan (clarification letter) for each girl stating that she is now naturalized and no longer needs to request a residence permit from the Immigration Office.

We took copies of the surat keterangan and surat kewarganegaraan (naturalization papers) to the Kantor Lurah and Kantor Camat offices in order to get the girls included in my wife's kartu keluarga (KK family registration card). Bu Lurah stamped and signed the application promptly but Pak Camat hesitated.

The civil servants at the latter office were uncertain about including the children in the KK because their Indonesian birth certificates indicate that they are warga negara asing (foreigners). We had to bring the KK application documents to the Catatan Sipil and ask the section head there to confirm that everything was correct. He kindly did this within 10 minutes and we went back to the Kantor Camat, which took our word for it and produced a kartu keluarga via their computer within 5 minutes.

The Kantor Lurah had also given us a family data form (on very large paper) that is part of a new procedure whereby each kabupaten gathers information about its citizens, who submit the form through the Kantor Camat when applying for a KK.

At this point, the two girls had become Indonesian citizens no different from 200 million others living in the country. The vast majority of these people do not need to prove their citizenship in their daily lives because they remain within the country.

However, if the child wants to return to Indonesia after going overseas, she must have either a visa or proof of citizenship. The next step is therefore applying for an Indonesian passport. I got an application form (very simple to fill out, unlike most visa application forms) and stof map for each girl and was told to attach the following documents:

1. original birth certificate for each child
2. photocopy of naturalization papers for each child
3. photocopy of father's passport for each child
4. original KTP (ID card) of Indonesian mother
5. original KK (family registration card)
6. original marriage certificate

On May 16, I brought the documents and completed application forms to Kantor Imigrasi Solo. The official at the counter for submitting applications only asked me to wait a minute while he finished working on another application. This was a dramatic contrast to 1997 (late Suharto era) when my Javanese wife had applied for her first passport at this same office and sat for hours without being called to the counter.

Fortunately, I had brought photocopies of each original document. I had not been told that the procedure is to return the originals immediately and use only photocopies for processing the application.

It took less than 5 minutes for the man at the counter to confirm that each original matched its photocopy. His only question was whether the US marriage certificate was an original -- I pointed to the raised seal on the official copy and he accepted it. After arranging each set of documents in order and stapling them, he told me to bring the children there in 7 days for photographing and fingerprinting, and to pay at that time.

On May 23, we arrived at the Immigration Office and paid the official fee of Rp 55,000 for each photo. We then spent about an hour in a queue consisting of Indonesians applying for passports, each person waiting to be called by name to go into the photo room. If we had paid an agent Rp 500,000 or more per child for their services, they would have asked us to appear at Kantor Imigrasi a day after paying the fee for us and we would have been ushered into the photo room within minutes.

Shortly after waiting about 20 minutes for a 2-year-old boy to get an acceptable photo after numerous tries, my 4-year-old took her turn. It took about five attempts, primarily because the photographer could not get a perfect biometric focus when he angled the digital camera downward to accommodate the height of the child. Finally, he asked her to sit on my wife's lap and used his software to isolate the child's image. My 6-year-old needed only about three attempts.

We were told to return a day or two later to pay the official fees of Rp 200,000 per passport plus Rp 15,000 per fingerprinting (even though the fingerprinting was waived because the computer file linked each child with the image of my wife, who has a passport issued by this same Immigration Office).

On Monday, I went to Kantor Imigrasi alone, paid the fee, and was told the passports would be ready the next day but I might have to pay Rp 150,000 each as pre-emptive fiskal tax (a tax then required of Indonesian citizens and foreign residents each time they left the country, but which was abolished in January 2011).

However, when I went to the Immigration Office today, I only needed to make a photocopy of each newly issued passport and give it to the clerk at the counter before leaving with the originals in hand.

Total cost for each naturalization: Rp 600,000 plus travel and document expenses

Time from receipt of application in Jakarta until Minister signed approval: six weeks

Total cost for each passport: Rp 270,000 plus minor travel and document expenses

Total time for obtaining naturalization and passport: slightly less than four months

Note: We had been quoted at least Rp 800,000 per child for an agent to handle the passport, requiring our presence at Kantor Imigrasi only for the photo session. The agent fee includes the Rp 270,000 official fee total. If they had paid the Rp 150,000 additional fee for pre-empting the fiskal tax, that would mean the agent fee was roughly double the total of all official fees.

Application Form: Permohonon Pendaftaran Anak untuk Memperoleh Kewarganegaraan Republic Indonesia

Additional information can be found here.

Our appreciation to Martin Schell for sharing his "How To's" with the community!