Foreigners married to Indonesians could finally be granted permanent resident status if landmark proposed changes are made to the highly unpopular 1992 Immigration Law.
The draft amendment to the law has been with the House of Representatives since July 2009, but House members backing the bill have recently invited public discussion on the issue, helping it to regain momentum.
Under the law, foreign spouses of Indonesian citizens are not granted permanent residency and must instead possess a valid work permit to remain in the country.
That also applies to adult children from the marriage. Gayus Lumbuun, a member of House Commission III, which oversees legal affairs and is deliberating the draft amendment, said on Wednesday that employment should not be the defining criteria for granting permanent residency to foreign spouses, as it is at present.
“Mixed-marriage couples have long been a reality in this country but the government continues to give them a hard time by making it difficult for spouses to obtain permanent residency,” he said.
“Therefore we need to help spouses achieve their goal of staying with their families in the country.”
However, he said any amendment should not allow for unscrupulous foreigners to gain residency through a contract marriage with an Indonesian.
“As such, applicants should meet a minimum time requirement of being married to the same person,” he said.
Julie Mace, a representative for the International Rainbow Alliance (APAB) and the Indonesian Mixed Marriage Society (PerCa Indonesia), suggested several amendments to the law, including that requirements for permanent residency be clearly regulated.
Another is to allow permanent residency for adult offspring retaining their foreign parent’s nationality but wanting to stay in Indonesia.
She said that foreign spouses were essentially treated like migrant workers, despite having family in the country. “It’s not fair for our families,” she said.
“The government needs to change the 1992 Immigration Law, especially with regard to the permanent residency issue.”
She added it was impractical to force spouses and adult offspring to get a work permit, which requires that the applicant have certain skills, work experience and a corporate sponsor.
“What if the son or daughter is only 22, just out of college in the foreign parent’s country, where they may be eligible for free education, and now wants to come back and work in Indonesia?” Julie asked.
“They don’t have the necessary work experience, and while they can stay here on a social visit visa, it doesn’t allow them to work, which is what they need to gain experience.”