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How to Get an Indonesian Visa and Find Jobs in Indonesia


Living and working in Indonesia—could it be a dream come true?

You’ve got an incredible blend of vibrant cultures all around you. You’ve got the world’s best beaches, towering volcanoes, and pristine forests. You’ve got an attractive expat salary package in a country with a very low cost of living.

You’ve got it made.

You just have to get there.

Unfortunately, Indonesia is one of the hardest Asian countries to find a job in, even with an Indonesia visa. The government’s strategy to reduce unemployment is to place heavy restrictions on expat workers, and that severely limits the opportunities available in every sector.

In this article, we’ll walk you through just what these restrictions are and what you can do to maximize your chances of jumping through all those hoops—and making that dream a reality. Without further ado, our guide on how to find jobs in Indonesia. Start with a bonus, and download the Business Words & Phrases PDF for FREE! (Logged-In Member Only)

Table of Contents

  1. The Job Situation in Indonesia
  2. How to Find Teaching Jobs
  3. How to Find Other Jobs When Living in Indonesia
  4. Do You Need to Speak the Language?
  5. Conclusion: How IndonesianPod101 Can Help You Master Indonesian

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1. The Job Situation in Indonesia

Indonesian jobs

First, here’s some background info about the job market in Indonesia to help set the stage.

Indonesia is, as you likely know, a developing country. Much of the population lives in relatively rural areas, and even the big cities have enormous sprawling areas of lower-income districts. Unemployment is relatively high, and gainful employment is tough to attain for ordinary locals.

One of the solutions, from the government’s perspective, is to limit the number of foreigners occupying positions that Indonesians could otherwise hold. Foreign nationals employed in Indonesia are required to be experts in their field; that is, holders of a university degree and with five years’ experience or a title showing their high place on the corporate ladder.

On top of that, businesses are taxed US$100 per month per foreigner hired, which is an astonishing sum in many cities. Most businesses that would otherwise gladly hire foreigners don’t clear this hurdle. That money, by the way, goes straight to the Manpower Department, where it’s invested in job training so locals can learn how to do your job.

And to make things more complicated, the visa approval process is designed to last months, further cutting down the pool of foreigners to only those who are both patient and well-off enough to survive this trial. Oh, and all of that vocabulary is all in Indonesian, of course.

With that in mind, where can you turn?

For many, the classroom.

2. How to Find Teaching Jobs

Woman Helping Children with Assignment

Teaching English in Indonesia is big, and other languages such as Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic aren’t terribly far behind. Even Dutch is more popular here than in many other countries because of the colonial ties with The Netherlands.

It’s possible for native speakers of any of these languages to find a job teaching in any large city. One potential contact is your country’s consulate or embassy, as they often run language classes and cultural events.

The good news is that native speaker teachers with certificates automatically qualify as foreign experts—you don’t need to be an award-winning educator or anything like that.

Outside of English teacher jobs in Indonesia, your best bet is to contact university language departments. Even smaller universities will have departments of European and Asian languages, and they may be looking for full- or part-time lecturers.

There are also several international schools in larger cities that provide education for all subjects in English. So a native speaker who can teach math or biology is also likely to have a fighting chance.

But one thing you’ll have to decide pretty early on in your job search in Indonesia is how by-the-book you want to do things. It’s not particularly complicated to get an extendable tourist visa, though it does require renewal every month for four months.

These visas aren’t valid for employment, but that won’t stop many schools from hiring you. That means you do have the opportunity to teach part-time and be paid under-the-table for your work.

However, that comes with the real risk of fines, deportation, and even jail time if you’re caught. Some people get away with this for years, and others are busted and face serious consequences.

Finding a job for foreigners in Indonesia that will sponsor a work visa is significantly more difficult, and frankly, nearly impossible in smaller cities if you don’t have a local contact. Networking is absolutely key to your success as you go job hunting in Indonesia.

You’ll need to frequently scour ESL job boards, look at other job postings in Indonesia, and perhaps even contact a recruiter to help you get placed. And to set yourself apart, it’s necessary to have professional certification from an accredited training program; those 40-hour short courses won’t cut it. Other teaching experience in Asia is definitely a plus.

Two of the best job boards with Indonesian sections are Go Overseas and Teach Away. You’ll notice that the Indonesian sections aren’t very big compared to, say, Thailand or China.

Keep your eye on these boards and make a point of applying to all the jobs that you’re even slightly interested in.

Send follow-up emails and thank your interviewers for their time. Do all the “good interviewee” things, in short, because these opportunities are slim.

3. How to Find Other Jobs When Living in Indonesia

Job interview phrases

So teaching isn’t for you. Not a problem!

If your end goal is simply working in Indonesia, the easiest way by far is to get a position with a firm based in your country that does business in Indonesia.

It will probably take some time before you’re actually placed there, but it’s a lifesaver to have other people in charge of arranging the actual work placement. The benefit of having a familiar culture to relate to can’t be overstated either—it’s easy to feel isolated in another country, even one as friendly and open as Indonesia is known to be.

Without that kind of stepping stone, it’s going to be harder to find work in Indonesia for a few reasons:

  • First, Indonesia isn’t the type of society where people can easily post and access information like job openings. That’s done in a much more word-of-mouth way than you’d expect. Essentially, job sites in Indonesia may not be the easiest place to look for work.
  • On the flip side, though, once people know you’re qualified and looking for a job, they may pass on your resume to interested parties.
  • Another difficulty is simply that the expected salary difference for locals and expats is usually pretty high. And even putting aside the salary question, you’re going to have to be trained in the local way of doing things, translating to an extra burden that doesn’t exist with a local.

All that means is that you need to stand out.

Woman in Red Surrounding by People in Black

Whatever niche you have, work like crazy to make your experience shine. If you have enough time to prepare, getting additional accreditation or certificates bumps you ahead of the other candidates. Those will be perfect for when you need to prove your expertise to the visa office.

The number-one most helpful thing in getting a job in Indonesia is connections. Is there anyone at all you know who can vouch for you or put your name in somewhere? A glowing personal reference (or two or three) goes extremely far.

Naturally, there are a number of job websites devoted specifically to Indonesia. Karir and JobStreet are two of the largest and best-known.

On both of them, you can search for jobs looking for foreign talent, as well as jobs only in English. Just skim through the job postings in Indonesia to find what you’re looking for. But that language question can be pretty thorny…

4. Do You Need to Speak the Language?

Business phrases

This is a big consideration whenever you’re thinking about moving abroad: What impact will my language skills have on my life there?

It’s no secret that a lot of Westerners living in Asian countries never end up picking up much of the local language. It’s easy to surround yourself in an English bubble anywhere. It takes a certain mindset shift to accept the bumpiness of actually using a language while you’re still a learner. Even simple stuff like just talking about your job in Indonesian can be a surprising hurdle.

As always, the answer is going to be different depending on where you end up. The more developed the city, and the younger the people you’re working with, the better the chance is that you can accomplish everything you need in English.

Outside your work, it’s relatively rare to have truly fluent English speakers in customer service roles that aren’t directly associated with the tourist industry. A Starbucks next to a hotel? English is a good bet. A mini-mart near a university? Try your luck and see what happens. A shack selling fried squid on the side of the road? Better stick to body language.


Conclusion: How IndonesianPod101 Can Help You Master Indonesian

My point earlier about needing a standout quality as a foreigner is a perfect reason for you to invest some serious time into learning Indonesian. The more you can show that you’re committed to treating your new country with respect, the more you’ll be accepted as a potential candidate. And besides, nailing an Indonesian job interview is an amazing feeling.

You’ll also need to take a look at your current qualifications and experience in your field. How much do you excel? Why should a company hire you and train you all about Indonesian work culture, when they can hire a local for much less?

Whether or not you’re thinking of a job in the ESL industry, having some real qualifications (such as professional certificates) will go a long way. Even better if you can show that you’ve got experience working somewhere in Southeast Asia, or that you have experience adapting to unfamiliar cultures.

With all that in mind, and with a strong attitude of perseverance, you’ll have that job in Indonesia before you know it.

And will be here for you every step of the way, with insightful blog posts, podcasts, and free vocabulary lists to help you improve your Indonesian skills. By upgrading to Premium Plus, you can even take advantage of having your own personal Indonesian teacher with our MyTeacher program!

Do you plan on working in Indonesia soon, or know someone who does? What’s the most valuable thing you learned from this article? Let us know in the comments!

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Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing & more.