It is a situation that explains why most foreigners prefer to pay a higher price to one of the many business consultancies that focus on arranging a range of documents or permits for expats. This particularly applies to foreigners who are new to Indonesia, and therefore have no experience with Indonesian bureaucracy and are not fluent in the Indonesian language.

Foreigners who feel like arranging permits by themselves need to meet the following requirements: have plenty of time (partly because the process will include a couple of fruitless visits to a number of government institutions), have a lot of patience (as information from civil servants will be unclear, wrong or not in line with information obtained earlier from a different civil servant), have plenty of perseverance and be quite stress resistant (because when stuck at some stage in the process you probably simply want give up, and instead pay a high fee to an agency to take-over from you to complete the procedure). And, as mentioned above, you will need to be fluent in Indonesian (or bring your Indonesian spouse or friend to talk to civil servants).

In this article I am going to share my experiences when arranging a driver’s license and the vehicle registration certificate (Surat Tanda Nomor Kendaraan, or STNK). It is important to mention that the locations were Bantul and Yogyakarta city (both in the Special Region of Yogyakarta) because the exact procedures may vary depending on the city, region or province. Therefore, experiences may differ at other locations. And what also plays a role is whether involved institutions and civil servants have experience handling driver’s license applications from foreigners. So, for instance, while the police station in Denpasar (Bali) should have ample experience handling driver’s license requests from foreigners, police officers in Bengkulu (Sumatra) may be somewhat confused when a foreigner shows up with the same request.

The reason why this is a valid topic to be presented in this report is that it gives some valuable insight into governance in Indonesia, such as the difference between theory (laws and regulations) and practice. It also helps to explain how come Indonesia has a persistently huge informal sector. Moreover, many subscribers to the Indonesia Investments report are foreigners who live and work in Indonesia. Who knows, this article can offer some help or guidance for those who seek to arrange these matters by themselves.

Before focusing on the topics mentioned in the preceding paragraph, first I return to some lessons I have learned from dealing with government institutions in Indonesia (and civil servants) in the past.


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