Immigration in Labuanbajo
After catching up on about 9 hours of sleep the night before I awoke on Sunday morning knowing that I would need to sort through my Visa issues. Sunday, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, was my last day permitted in the country by the visa. The following day I would have overstayed.
I went and spoke to the dive shop about the visa. They said I simply needed to go to the Immigration Office the next day and sort it out. They would send one of their Indonesian speaking staff with me to help. They were adamant everything would be fine; it had happened to people before and they managed to sort it all out.
There was nothing stopping me from flying out of the country on Sunday. It would have been easy; I would just fly to Bali then to either Singapore or Malaysia. But I didn’t have my passport, that was at the immigration office with my paperwork.
The next day I went back to the dive shop at the agreed time. She produced my passport and papers from a draw. I was confused and annoyed. They told me they had given everything to the immigration office for processing, yet here everything was completely untouched. They had sat on it for a week and done nothing. (I later found out they couldn’t do anything with it because they hadn’t got me to sign the piece of paper that allowed them to deal with things on my behalf.)
I was where I was. Getting pissy at the only people that were going to help me didn’t make much sense.
Having an Indonesian speaker at Immigration definitely helped me to get served faster. But the woman sent to help me didn’t really know what to say. Every time the Immigration officer said something that she hadn’t prepared for before, she would need to call the Dive Shop to speak to the Chief of Staff there. It was frustrating. I was told having an Indonesian speaker would help because Immigration speak very little English. As it turned out, the Immigration Officer spoke English really well; so I just started talking directly with the Immigration officer; bypassing my Indonesian translator completely.
After I explained everything she said the Dive Company had brought my paperwork over without the necessary paperwork complete – they should have given me the extra form to sign. She said my accident was unfortunate but the best thing for me to do is to go to Bali and have everything sorted out there. She said they could do it in Flores but she doesn’t know how long it would take, maybe three days maybe a week, maybe more, all the while I would have to stay in Labuanbajo the whole time just incase they needed me to come over. She said Bali are much more efficient dealing with this kind of stuff because they do so many more of them.
So I decided I’d just fly back to Bali that day or the day after and get it sorted. It was probably time to leave Labuan Bajo anyway.
We drove back to the office and explained everything to the Chief of Staff there. She said not to book the flights just yet. She said she knows the Head of Immigration there and we can check if what I had been told was correct. The Head of Immigration guy said to come by his office to discuss my case.
After some waiting around and some discussion we learnt nothing new. The options that were in my budget left me no choice but to go to Bali to get it sorted. So I booked a flight to Bali for the following day.
I said my goodbyes to Labuanbajo. I had come to really like the place and would recommend anyone looking for some world class diving or some off the beaten track experience to check out Labuanbajo and Flores.
Immigration in Denpasar
The next day, I booked a flight out from Jakarta for 4 weeks time to Kuala Lumpur so I can show the Immigration office my proof of planned departure. I then texted my friend Rajiv (Raj) who stays there to ask if he’ll be around KL in one months time. Then, I went to the airport and flew to Denpasar. I asked a taxi driver to take me to the Immigration Office located about 6 minutes drive away from the airport.
At the ‘Customer Care’ desk at the Immigration Office I explained my situation (left my forms, mistake with the forms, I fell off my bike so didn’t arrive back in time to rectify the situation, they told me the best thing to do is come to Denpasar Immigration Office where everything can be sorted).
She simply said, “You have definitely over stayed so you need to leave the country. For everyday you don’t leave, there’s a 300k Rupia (£15) per day fine.”
“But the Immigration Office in Labuanbajo said you guys can help me. The head of immigration said you can extend my visa and I just need to pay the overstay.”
“Sir, there’s nothing we can do. You can extend your visa 7 days before expiry date, see here for the rules.”
“Thank you, as I’ve explained, I’m aware of the rules that’s why I tried to get this sorted over a week ago. So I have to leave?”
“Yes, and you have overstayed so you should definitely let the English Consulate know. Here’s their number. I don’t know why you came here, we have hundreds of applications a day. In Labuanbajo they probably only have 1 or 2. They can do it faster for you.”
“They told me to come here, because it’s faster.”
“Yeah, but you should have stayed there, they could do it faster than us.”
“They’re an immigration office, I just followed their advice, like I’m following yours now. Do you have a phone I can use to call the consulate?”
“No, we don’t.”
“Is there a phone anywhere near here?”
“I don’t know.”
“For customer care, you’re not very helpful.”
“We’re an immigration office not a hotel. We’re not here to help you.”
“It says the words ‘Customer care’ on your desk.”
“Is there anything else we can help you with, sir?”
“I can’t imagine so given you couldn’t help me with my immigration issue, and you’re an immigration office.”
“Okay, thank you, sir.”
“Yes, Good Bye.”
I went outside and called the immigration office from my phone. The person who picked up sounded extremely young. I explained what just happened, to which he remarked,
“So your passport is valid sir?”
I said “Yes.”
“Okay, so you can fly out today if your passport is valid”.
“Yes, I know. My question is will I have any problems leaving or reentering the country now that I’ve over stayed?”
“Hmmmm, call us if you have any problems.”
A temporary farewell to Indonesia
I caught a taxi back to the airport. I asked the lady at information about the process for paying the over-stay. It seemed straight forward. I would simply pay at the passport control, before getting to the departure lounge. I called the embassy again, a woman picked up. She spoke with confidence, authority and knowledge. I explained a brief summary of the day’s events to her. She asked if I can hold the line. A few minutes later she came back and said I shouldn’t have any more problems – there were no further repercussions from the overstay other than the fee. Then I started a tedious 1-2 hour hunt for flights. Raj had replied to my message from that morning: he was in KL and would be there for the next few months; he asked when I was thinking of coming. I replied, tonight. Of course things had changed for me from the morning when I thought I would be going in a months time. He thanked me for my excellent notice. He was, as always, more than welcoming saying I must stay with him. He said he had a few things on that week but would try and move things around to spend time with me. I said not to worry, I would be spending most my time resting because I had bruised my ribs.
I went to the check-in counter and asked if it’s possible to buy the flight that leaves in 45 minutes to go to KL. She said it’s possible but the price was far too high. I explained everything that had happened to me, from my fall, to the visa issue, to being turned away at immigration. She was sympathetic and helped me to book the flight in two hours time for KL. She was very friendly and quite jokey, however, there was a certain sadness in her eyes. I asked if she’s okay. A small tear formed in her eye and she said no, my husband has been cheating on me, he’s moved out to live with his mistress and now he’s trying to take my baby.
Well, my problems were somewhat more trivial. I spent the next hour listening to her and joking around trying to make her feel better, even temporarily. She appreciated my efforts and thanked me for putting up with her.
Eventually though, a queue started to form, so I had to get going and she needed to get back to her job.
Good evening Malaysia, it’s been 3 years
A few hours later I had landed in Kuala Lumpur and made it to Raj’s flat. He was an old friend, a good friend and somehow has always been there for me with a place to stay in SE Asia when I needed it most. Not to arrive empty handed, I had picked up some duty free Raspberry Vodka from Duty Free. We spent an hour catching up, but he needed to go to sleep because it was about 0130 and he had work the next day. With air-conditioning and a comfy bed, despite the pain in my ribs, I slept well. Very well.