Navigating the RISTEK-DIKTI Visa Process: Advice for Foreign Researchers in Indonesia

by Tabitha Kidwell

To be able to conduct research of any kind in Indonesia, researchers need to get a foreign research permit. Actually, that’s only the first of many documents you need to obtain. I’ve collected over a dozen official documents, and I’m not yet finished with the immigration process. I’m sure all those permits and letters serve important purposes for different people or offices, but the labyrinthine bureaucracy makes it all blend together. In this post, I’ll try to explain my experience through the whole process. Depending on a researcher’s nationality, research topic, or location in Indonesia, your experience could be quite different, but I hope this will be helpful to future researchers in Indonesia. I’ve divided the steps up into three stages: applying for the FRP & getting a research visa, paperwork in Jakarta, and Immigration and residency paperwork. I suggest only thinking about one stage at a time, otherwise the process seems too insurmountable. Completing all the required paperwork to do research and live in Indonesia is a long and tedious process, but anyone with enough tenacity will be able to complete the process.

I. Applying for the FRP & Getting a Research Visa (At Home in your Country)

This is much easier than it used to be now that the process is online – I have friends who had to send their application in paper copy just a few years ago.  Here are the steps you should follow.  When I can, I’ve included copies of the documents I submitted.  I was accepted on the first try, so my documents must have been okay.  Even with being accepted the first time, I didn’t get my visa until about 3 months after I applied, so that would be the bare minimum.  I recommend applying at least 4 months before you hope to go to Indonesia.

1. Create an account at

2.  Complete the initial application. This asks for your demographic and personal information, information from your CV (education, research experience, professional experience, and recent publications), information about your study (title, objective, abstract, location, duration, funding), information about your counterpart, and information about your advisor and department chair from your home institution.  If you are a student, be sure to indicate that when asked for your “role” or “position” so that there is no confusion about you paying the (significantly smaller) student research fee.

3. Obtain and upload the following documents:

a. A formal letter of request to conduct research in Indonesia

b. Your CV

c. A passport photo with a red background

d. A color scan of your passport photo page

e. A letter of acceptance from your Indonesian counterpart

f. The Indonesian Counterpart’s CV

g. Your detailed research proposal (I had trouble later because I did not include a cover page, but RISTEK-DIKTI accepted this version.  I’d suggest including a cover page with the title, your name, and your institution,  just to make this easier later)

h. A letter of recommendation from a university official (I had my department chair write this)

i. A letter of recommendation from a Senior Scientist in your field (I had my advisor write this)

j. A health certificate (I asked my doctor for a letter saying I was in good health).

k. Letter of Recommendation from the Indonesian Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for the visa (I found an e-mail address for the embassy nearest to me, and e-mailed them to request a letter of recommendation)

l. A list of the research equipment you will bring to Indonesia (I uploaded a short letter saying I would bring my laptop and an audiorecorder)

m. Letter guaranteeing sufficient funds (I asked my department’s secretary to write a letter saying how much funding I had from my home university).

n. A letter telling which Indonesian Embassy or Consulate you will visit to apply for your visa  (They ended up e-mailing me to ask this again after I had been approved.)

o. Bank statement (They e-mailed me to ask for a more recent one after I had been approved. I have heard that they want to see at least 1500 USD in the account.)

p. A letter committing to joint publication of research results with Indonesian counterparts. (I wrote a letter myself.)

q. If you are coming with a partner, family, or research team, you also need to upload their passport, photo, CV, recommendation, health certificate, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.

4.  Check all that over, hit “submit,” and celebrate – you have completed the first major hurdle in this process!

5. Now you wait.  The approval committee meets monthly, and you can see their meeting dates and minutes here.  They could ask you to revise your proposal or your documents, or they could contact you or your counterpart to Skype into a meeting and present about your research.  You are probably more likely to encounter difficulties if your research topic is something sensitive like police corruption or deforestation.  Mine was pretty benign – about English teachers – so I was approved on the first try.

6.  Eventually you will hear that your application was approved.  Then you wait some more. It took about 6 weeks for me to receive the visa authorization “telex” that let me apply for my visa.  Once you have that, you can move on to the next step….

7.  Apply for your visa.  If you have lived or worked abroad before, this stage will be similar to your previous experiences getting visas.  I was able to start my file by registering online with the embassy in Washington, D.C., then I had to give them 105 USD, my passport, passport photos (with a white background this time), and a copy of the telex I received from RISTEK-DIKTI.  I also had to show my round trip airline ticket. Processing the visa took 7 working days.  Since I lived in D.C., I dropped it off and picked it up in person.  Check with your embassy or consulate about their required documents, fees, and timelines.  Once you have your visa, buy your plane tickets input your arrival date at, and get ready to go to Indonesia!

III. Paperwork in Jakarta

No matter where your research will take place, you have to start in Jakarta – and you probably need to plan to stay about a week and a half, unless you have a friend or hire an agent who can pick up your document from Kemendagri.  Bring plenty of passport photos with a red background (get a bunch of these taken before you go – I just took a photo with my iPhone, edited it to the right size, and printed out a whole page of them on photo paper), several copies of your passport, and make extra copies of any documents you are given along the way. Here are the steps you can follow:

1. Go to the Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education (Kementerian Riset, Teknologi, dan Pendidikan Tinggi, or Ristek-Dikti) to get your Letter of Research Permit (Surat Izin Penelitian, or SIP).  Their office is on the 20th floor of BBPT building 2 on Jalan Thamrin in Central Jakarta.  This was the most pleasant and quickest of all the offices.  I went right at 8:30 the first morning I arrived, and the place was very calm.  I completed a form, gave them passport photos, and paid the 1.6 million Rp student research fee.  You can’t pay at the office itself – you have to leave the building, walk out to the road, go to the Mandiri bank in the next building over, pay it there, get the receipt, and go back to the Ristek-Dikti office. I had to wait few minutes, then they gave me my SIP, a cool laminated Research Permit Card, and with 5 copies of my SIP with cover letters to give to the rector of my host university, the immigration office, the police headquarters, and the ministry of the interior.  They were really nice, and the whole process took maybe 45 minutes. If you do this in the morning, you can easily hop on a go-jek or in a taxi to go complete the next step on the same day.

2.  Go to the National Police Headquarters (Markas Besar Kepolisian Negara Republic Indonesia, or Mabes-Polri) to get your traveling permit (Surat Keterangan Jalan, or SKJ). This is located at Jl. Trunojoyo no 3in South Jakarta.  If you ask around about where foreigners should go to “lapor” (report), people in the police complex will point you to a waiting room at the back of a building.  You take a number when you enter.  I had to wait about 45 minutes, then I completed a form, gave them two photos, and the packet that Ristek-Dikti had made for them (which included a cover letter, my SIP, and photocopies of my passport and visa pages).  I finished this just before noon on day 1, and they told me they would have the SKJ ready the next morning.  I returned the morning of day 2, and didn’t need to take a number. I just went to the same window as the day before and asked if my “SKJ” was ready.  I waited about 5 minutes, and they called my name and gave me the letter.  There is a copy shop just down the way from the waiting room where I made a photocopy.  That left me enough time on day 2 to submit the documents for the next step.

3.  Go to the Office of National Unity and Politics (Kesatuan Bangsa dan Politik, or Kesbangpol) at the Ministry of Home Affairs (Kementerian Dalam Negeri Republic Indonesia, or Kemendagri) to request your Research Notification Letter (Surat Pemberitahuan Penelitian, or SPP).  The Kemendagri complex is a huge collection of big white buildings on the road north of the MONAS (Monument Nasional) complex, conveniently called “Jalan Merdeka Utara” (North Independence Road).  This confused my Go-Jek driver, who kept trying to take me to “Jalan Merdeka Timor” (East Independence Road).  When you find KEMENDAGRI (No 8, Jalan Merdeka Utara), the Kesbangpol office is on the ground floor of building B.   Enter the complex, walk straight ahead, turn right before the banks, and the office will be the last door on your left.  You need to give them a copy of the documents collected thus far (SIP, SKJ, cover letter from Ristek-Dikti), a copy of your passport, and 2 passport photos.  They give you a little yellow form and tell you to come back in 5-7 business days.  That form has a phone number you can call to ask if it is finished, but it took me 4 or 5 times before anyone answered the phone. If you need to get to your research site right away, someone else can collect the SPP for you, but if not, enjoy your week in Jakarta.  It took 5 business days for my SPP, and it took about 10 minutes to pick up.  They also gave me copies of the SPP addressed to the regional governor at my research site and to the regional police office at my research site – more about that later.  Once you have your SPP, celebrate with a nice dinner in Jakarta before you head to your research location and begin the next round of paperwork!  You got your SIP, your SKJ, and your SPP, and you deserve a treat!

III. Immigration and Residency Paperwork (At your Research Site)

Once you leave Jakarta, you might be tempted to relax and feel like your paperwork woes are finished, but they are actually just getting started.  The Jakarta offices are accustomed to issuing the paperwork you need, but the local offices often don’t encounter many foreigners. Even in Central Java, a fairly well-connected area, many of the civil servants I met with seemed a little confused or flustered about what paperwork I needed to submit or be given.  This can make the process more complicated because you may go one day and be told you need to collect a certain number of documents, then come the next day with those documents only to learn that you need something else, too. Also, in these offices, there is often only one person who is in charge of paperwork for foreigners, so if they are out for a few days, it can really hold you up.  But don’t lose hope – everyone I encountered was very friendly, and you will feel a great sense of accomplishment after you finish all your office visits and get all the letters you (may or may not) need.  I’ll explain my process below, but your process is almost guaranteed to be different.  There was a lot of confusion for me about which paperwork needed to be done first – I was told by one person that I needed the residency letter to get the KITAS, and by another that I needed the KITAS to get the residency letter.  It’s best to just proceed step by step.  If you can get one letter or visit one office every day, you’ll be done in under two weeks.

1. Go to the local police office to get the Letter of Report (Surat Tanda Melaporkan).  I gave them copies of my passport and various letters (I honestly don’t recall which ones).  This took one day in Salatiga, but then the person responsible was out of the office, so I couldn’t pick it up for a couple of days.  You need this letter for the next step.

2.  Immigration paperwork.  Within 30 days of your arrival in the country, you need to visit the local immigration office to request your Limited Stay Permit Cart (Kariu Izin Tinggal Terbatas, or KITAS), and your Multiple Exit Re-Entry Permit (MERP).  At least in Semarang, this was a surprisingly easy process. It used to be that you would have to go three times – once to apply, once to take photos and fingerprints and pay, and once to pick the document up.  But because I completed my forms online at http://izintinggal., I was able to do my photos, fingerprints, and payment on my first visit, which probably lasted about 30 minutes total!  They need a letter of guarantee from my counterpart, the Letter of Report from the local police office, copies of my visa, arrival stamp, and photo page in my passport, passport photos, and a copy of my original visa telex.  I also included a cover letter, and almost had the whole thing rejected because the two letters were written by different people, but instead, they just gave the cover letter back.  I’ve heard that some immigration offices also need a letter of residency from the RT/RW, so you might want to call your office ahead of time to ask what you need.  The office will take your passport, then you should be able to return after 4 days to take it back with KITAS the stamps inside, and also a KITAS card.  They also e-mailed me two documents.  I didn’t receive a MERP blue book like I did last time, but they assured me that it was now electronic and I didn’t need the card.

3.  The SKTT.  This is the one that really takes a lot of time, and that must proceed in a certain order. You can start this before you have your KITAS.  I’m not totally certain I needed to do this one, since I only plan to stay 7 months and will not need an extension, but I’m a rule-follower, so I did.

a.  You should start by visiting the Local Agency of National Unity and Politics (Badan Kesatuan Bangsa dan Politik, or Kesbangpol) to ask what paperwork you will need and get forms that will need to be filled out or stamped by lower levels of government.

b.  Then, you visit the Ketua RT, the head of the neighborhood.  Ketua RT is the lowest level of government, but he is unpaid, so you just go visit him at his house.  He is in charge of about 50 households, and will probably want to chat a little bit and offer you snacks.  He should have a little booklet of residency forms (Surat Pengantar).  He will complete one in duplicate using carbon paper, and will sign and stamp it.

c.  Then you go to the Ketua RW, the community unit cheif.  My Ketua RW oversees about 4 RTs, so this level is just a little above the neighborhood level.  The Head of the RW is also unpaid, so again, you’ll visit him at his house in the evening, he’ll offer you snacks, and he’ll sign and stamp your document.

d.  The next step up is the sub-district, the Kelurahan.  This is the lowest level of official government, and it seemed to me that there were about 20 people working in the office.  They take the letter from Pak RW and replace it with a more official Residency Letter (Surat Pengantar Keterangan) signed and stamped by the Lurah, the head of the kelurahan. They also sign and stamp the forms for the Kesbangpol office.  I had to give them copies of my passport and several other letters I had been given previously (including copies of cover letters addressed to other people, which made no sense, but whatever), so just be sure to have plenty of copies of your SIP, SKJ, and SPP, and really anything that looks official or important.

e.  Then, you take your letter and forms to be signed and stamped at the Kecematan, the district office. Again, I had to give them copies of my passport and the various letters I had received.  I had to wait a day for the Cemat, the head of the Kecematan, to return to the office.  Be sure that all the forms and letters are signed and stamped when you pick them up – they forgot to stamp one of mine, which meant I had to go to the Kecematan four days in a row!

f.  Then, you can go back to the Kesbangpol office.  They will actually supply you with two documents:  a Request for Residency Letter (Permohonan Rekomendasi Surat Keterangan Tempat Tinggal, or SKTT) and the Research Recommendation Letter (Rekomendasi Penelitian).

To get the SKTT Request letter, I needed copies of the forms that had been signed at the Kelurahan and the Kecematan, a letter of request from my host university, the Letter of Report from the local police, and a copy of my KITAS from the Immigration office.  It was unclear if I did, indeed need the KITAS, or if I could have done this without the KITAS – I was told different things by different people at the Kesbangpol office, so this could vary from place to place.   To get the Research Recommendation Letter, I had to give them a copies of my proposal, student id card, drivers license, passport, and a letter of request from my host university.

I returned after a couple of days, and received copies of each letter, as well as a sealed copy of the Research Recommendation Letter to give to the Rector at my university and to the Regional Planning, Research, and Development Agency (Badan Perendanaan, Penelitian, dan Pengembangan Daerah, or Bapelitban). Someone from the Kesbangpol office just walked me to the other end of the city government complex to the Bapelitban office, and I handed it to a dude in the lobby smoking a cigarette who may or may not have worked there but who seemed official. They also gave me a copy of my Request for Residency Letter to take to the next office….

g.  The Department of Population and Civil Registration (Dinas Pendudukan dan Pencatatan Sipil, or Disdukcapil).  This is the office that finally issues the SKTT after all those visits.  They needed the form that I had been given at Kesbangpol that had been stamped at the Kelurahan and Kecematan, the SKTT Request Letter from Kesbangpol, copies of my passport, KITAS, Police Letter of Report, and a photo.  They gave me a receipt and told me to come back in 2 weeks for the SKTT.  I asked if I needed to take the SKTT to any other offices, and they said I didn’t, so I’m hoping that this will be the end of my visits to government offices!

4.  Other: Again, I’m not sure I needed to do these last steps, but I’m a big rule-follower.  To do my due diligence, after having been given sealed copies of my SPP by Kemendagri, I reported to the Governor of Central Java, and to the Regional Police Office’s (Kantor Police Daerah, or Kapolda) Director of Intelligence and Safety (Direktor Inteligen dan Keamanan, or Intelkam).  This resulted in a major run around, as it seems that both of the offices that handle receiving this kind of paperwork have moved several times in the last several years in Semarang.

From the governor’s office, I was directed to the “One Stop Integrated Service Center” (Pelayanan Terpadu Satu Pintu) to get another “Research Recommendation Letter”.  The idea of having a one stop service is a very good one, had I known from the beginning where that “one stop” would be.  In any case, once I arrived, I was informed I could have done the paperwork for the Recommendation Letter online at (this is the link for Central Java), but I just did it online at their office that day.  I had to upload my proposal (with a cover page!), passport, and a couple of other letters (again, I don’t recall which – I was carrying around copies of about a dozen documents at this point), and they e-mailed me a “Research Recommendation” (Rekomendasi Penelitian).  I’m not really sure about the purpose of this letter, or to whom my research is being recommended, but I guess it’s nice to have another letter.

From Kapolda, I was directed to the Intelkam office, which was in another location.  This was my favorite office – two bored police officers were just sitting around.  One barely looked at me, opened my letter, scanned it, stamped it, and handed it back, without even losing any of the ash dangling precariously from the end of his cigarette.  I was at the Intelkam office for about 20 seconds.  I’m not sure if I actually needed to go to either of these offices, but I guess it didn’t hurt to do so.

And then you are done!  It’s time to celebrate, and time to dig into your research.  Before you know it, it will be time to submit your exit paperwork, which should be simpler than the entry paper! I hope so, at least!

One Comment to “Navigating the RISTEK-DIKTI Visa Process: Advice for Foreign Researchers in Indonesia”

  1. Patience and tenacity are mandatory virtues!

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