Pro-Link GLOBAL immigration dispatch – Indonesia, India, Qatar and Singapore

Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Indonesia, India, Qatar, and Singapore.

Pro-Link GLOBAL immigration dispatch

Featured Update 

Indonesia – Transition to online system bringing numerous changes

The numerous recent small changes to the immigration process in Indonesia now appear to have been just a preview of more significant changes to come. Indonesia’s Directorate General of Immigration (DGI) will reportedly transition to an online immigration processing system, and that transition has already brought changes ahead of the full implementation. Pro-Link GLOBAL expects to see frequent process changes in Indonesia over the coming months; please continue to watch our future Immigration Dispatches for updates and take note of the below.

KITAS Cards no longer being issued

Some local immigration offices have already stopped issuing physical Temporary Stay Permit Cards (KITAS). Applicants are instead receiving their stay permits by email. Foreign nationals who do not receive a physical KITAS card should print a copy of their electronic KITAS to carry with their passports. 

Dependents must wait for employee’s VITAS before applying, bank statements now required

One aim of the new online system is to eliminate the current need for the in-country Telex preapproval notification for Temporary Stay Visas (VITAS) before employees and their dependents can apply for their VITAS at overseas Indonesian consular posts. In preparation, the DGI has already refined the process for the Telex VITAS approval and consular filings.While there has been no formal policy change, authorities are now requiring dependents of employees to await issuance of the employee’s VITAS before filing for their own VITAS. This differs from past practice, where applications for both the employee and their dependents were filed simultaneously. Foreign nationals bringing families with them to Indonesia should now plan for an additional 7 to 10 business days to obtain their family members’ VITAS and adjust travel plans accordingly.

Related articles:


In a related change, some authorities have also begun requesting bank statements covering the previous three months for the company or the employee to demonstrate a minimum balance of USD 1,500. Again, there has been no formal announcement of this new requirement; but it is now a frequent request, and applicants should plan ahead to avoid processing delays.

Third-Party representatives can file on behalf of companies 

Previously, Pro-Link GLOBAL reported on a DGI announcement which purported to no longer allow third-party representatives to act on behalf of companies to file applications processed at local immigration offices. See our Immigration Dispatch of 21 November for more details. This would have been a significant inconvenience for companies employing foreign nationals in Indonesia, requiring company representatives to appear personally at immigration offices at various steps in the process. At that time, we believed there was a “strong possibility” that the DGI would reconsider the wisdom of that decision and reverse it, and our belief was apparently well-founded. On 21 November, the DGI issued another announcement reversing its prior decision, and once again allowing third-party representatives to handle application processing on behalf of companies employing foreign workers. The announcement simply adds one additional requirement to the previous requirement of a Power of Attorney to act on the company’s behalf: third-party representatives must now also present a copy of the ID card of a company director. In general, Indonesia’s work and residence authorization and entry process is among the more complex, with more than a dozen distinct steps over a three to five-month process. With the coming changes as the DGI transitions to its new system, it will be imperative that companies and their foreign employees be in close communication with Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists who are well-versed in Indonesia’s unique process.

Immigration changes from around the world 

India – expanded E-Visa to attract more business travellers

In action taken on 28 November, the Indian Union Cabinet approved measures to expand the scope of its current “e-tourist” visa program to include business travellers and medical tourists. With its expanded scope, the electronic visa is being renamed the “eVisa” and the permissible stay expanded from the current 30 days to 60 days. Eight additional nations will be added to the eligible list, bringing the total to 158 countries. The visa’s previous two-entry limitation each year continues to apply to business and tourist visitors; but it has been expanded to three entries each year for medical visitors. Hopefully, once the new program takes full effect, authorities may consider expanding the permissible uses each year for business travellers as well.As of the date of writing, the Ministry of Home Affairs had yet to announce the implementation date for these changes or add the new details to its online application process. The move is designed to boost international trade and commerce to India, and similar pro-business immigration reforms are likely to follow over the coming months. Per a government press release issued after the cabinet meeting, “The Union Cabinet has given its approval for liberalisation, simplification and rationalisation of the existing visa regime in India and incremental changes in the visa policy decided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with various stakeholders.”Pro-Link GLOBAL is enthusiastic about the prospects of improved corporate mobility to India and is continuing to track the developments from our New Delhi Office. 

Qatar – revisions to kafala system will hopefully benefit foreign workers

A new law, enacted in October 2015, will finally come into force on 14 December, making major revisions to Qatar’s “kafala system.” The new law, first advertised in Qatar’s Official Gazette on 13 December 2015 with an effective date of one year later, amends aspects of Qatar’s Labour Law which human rights organisations criticise as being akin to modern-day slavery.Versions of the kafala system, or “sponsorship system,” exist in the laws of most Middle Eastern and Gulf nations, though some – notably, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – have made recent positive reforms. The kafala laws are often justified as a necessity to manage the massive foreign worker populations of those countries, which in the case of Qatar, constitutes 94 per cent of the private labour force. However, critics argue that the laws giving employers sole control of employees’ ability to change or leave employers, or to obtain exit visas to leave the country, lead to exploitation and abuse. While the new reforms in Qatar stop short of addressing all the injustices, they do appear an earnest and significant move in the right direction. Several of the most significant reforms are as follows:
  • Employees may apply directly to the Ministry of Interior for exit visas to leave the country, without going through their employers, though notice and consent of their employers is still required
  • Employees may change employers at the end of their current contracts, or after five years working for the initial employer where the contract is open-ended. There is no longer a two-year ban on obtaining a new work visa if the employee leaves the employer without consent
  • A “Foreign Nationals Exit Grievances Council” has been created to resolve disputes when employers prevent employees from obtaining exit visas
  • Numerous improvements to working conditions have been mandated, including limits on working hours and overtime pay
  • Heavier fines and jail terms now apply to employers who engage in prohibited acts, such as allowing their foreign employees to work for third-parties without official authorization, or employers holding or taking passports of foreign workers without consent.
The trend toward reforming Qatar’s foreign worker laws was already in motion, but many point to Qatar’s planned hosting of the 2022 World Cup, and the resulting global attention and criticism, as the primary catalyst accelerating reform. Human rights groups approve of the recent reforms, but continue to stress that more is needed before Qatar rises to acceptable global worker rights standards. At Pro-Link GLOBAL, we likewise applaud the present changes, but recognise that well-intended laws are only as good as the accompanying action at implementation and enforcement, and we hope that actions follow the good intentions. 

Singapore – several changes impact work pass holders

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has recently made several relatively-minor changes to the rules and procedures applicable to various work pass holders – including Employment Pass (EP) holders, S Pass holders, and foreign Work Permit holders – of which companies should be aware.

Letters of consent needed for employment pass holders appointed to boards of directors 

Effective both prospectively and retroactively, companies appointing Employment Pass (EP) holders employed by another company to their boards of directors must first obtain a Letter of Consent (LOC) from the MOM. This requirement now inserts the MOM into the process of appointing foreign national company directors. Requests for the required LOC can be submitted through the MOM’s iSubmit website and will be processed within 5 weeks.The MOM has already indicated that it will approve such requests and issue LOCs where: (1) the two companies are “related by shareholding,” and (2) the director appointment is related to the EP holder’s primary employment in Singapore.As this new policy is also applicable retroactively, companies that already have directors on their boards, who are holders of EPs based on employment with another company, should proceed now to request the necessary LOCs. Going forward, companies and their foreign directors should keep in mind that the LOCs will need to be renewed whenever the director’s EP is renewed.

Employment Pass Holders Transferring Companies Need New Employment Passes

Effective from 1 December forward, MOM is no longer accepting mere notification as sufficient when an EP holder transfers employment between related companies due to a posting or secondment, career progression, or business restructuring. The related company who will be employing the EP holder after the transfer must now apply for a new EP for the employee and cancel the existing EP once the new EP is issued. For transfers of this type between related companies, job advertisement is not required. 

“Written Consent” of employee required for new and renewals of all work passes 

Effective immediately, companies should ensure that they have the “written consent” of their foreign employees before proceeding to renew or apply for any type of work pass on their behalf. Mere verbal or assumed consent that the foreign national agrees to be employed by the company is not sufficient. While the MOM will not require such written consent to be submitted with the application, it must be available if requested by the MOM, and penalties may be imposed if it cannot be produced.MOM has expressly stated that an employment contract signed by the employee will be accepted as proof of “written consent.” Therefore, companies should verify that their human resources departments are obtaining and keeping record of currently valid signed employment contracts. Copies should also be provided to the company’s immigration specialists when submitting applications for new or renewals of all work passes for its employees.

For related news and features, visit our Immigration section.

Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Caveat Lector | Warning to ReaderThis is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change at a moment's notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Pro-Link GLOBAL's Counsel and Knowledge Management teams. We worked with our PLG | KGNM Indonesia Office “PT Rami Formality Services” and PLG | KGNM Qatar Offices “Future Gate LLC” and “QShield LLC” to provide you this update.Information contained in this Global Immigration Dispatch is prepared using information obtained from various media outlets, government publications and our KGNM immigration professionals. Written permission from the copyright owner and any other rights holders must be obtained for any reuse of any content posted or published by Pro-Link GLOBAL that extends beyond fair use or other statutory exemptions. Furthermore, responsibility for the determination of the copyright status and securing permission rests with those persons wishing to reuse the materials. Interested parties are welcome to contact the Knowledge Management Department (km@pro-linkglobal.com) with any additional requests for information or to request reproduction of this material.

Related Articles