What Ex­pats Need to Know Be­fore Mar­ry­ing an In­done­sian

Indonesia Expat - - FRONT PAGE - By Nadya Joy Go­zon Ador

While Jane Austen’s clas­sic novel Pride and Prej­u­dice pre­sup­poses that de­cid­ing whom to love (and even­tu­ally marry) is mostly just tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion some fac­tors here and there, mar­riage trends in to­day’s glob­al­ized world have made the process more com­pli­cated.

Modern- day mar­riages aren’t as easy and straight­for­ward as they used to be. That’s no sur­prise when transna­tional eco­nomic, cul­tural and ro­man­tic re­la­tions have grown more preva­lent and the num­ber of in­ter­ra­cial mar­riages is on the rise. In­done­sia is no ex­cep­tion.

Apart from In­done­sia’s flour­ish­ing econ­omy, mas­sive do­mes­tic mar­ket and rich nat­u­ral re­sources, one of the most com­mon rea­sons for­eign­ers move to the ar­chi­pel­ago is to marry and set­tle down with their In­done­sian part­ner.

To un­der­stand the in­tri­ca­cies of mar­ry­ing and In­done­sia, it’s im­por­tant to know more about lo­cal his­tory.

A walk down the colo­nial mem­ory lane will give us a peek at the story be­hind in­ter­ra­cial mar­riages in In­done­sia, par­tic­u­larly be­tween na­tive In­done­sian women and Euro­pean men. The spe­cific pair­ing can be at­trib­uted to the time when Euro­pean mer­chants, mil­i­tary per­son­nel and ad­min­is­tra­tors were gen­er­ally male and Euro­pean women came to the Indies only at the turn of the 19th cen­tury.

In their book Dutch Asi­atic Ship­ping in the

Sev­en­teenth and Eigh­teenth Cen­turies, au­thors Bruijn, Gaas­tra and Schof­fer men­tioned how the Dutch East In­dia Com­pany (VOC) sent an es­ti­mated 978,000 men to Asia, which ul­ti­mately al­tered the economies of the re­gion. Their re­la­tions with the na­tive women trig­gered the for­ma­tion of a uniquely mixed colo­nial so­ci­ety. In­ter­ra­cial re­la­tions, how­ever, did not carry weight un­less cou­ples were legally mar­ried.

The In­done­sian gov­ern­ment le­gal­ized mar­riage be­tween a Euro­pean man with a na­tive wo­man in 1641 – and once mar­ried, the na­tive gained full Euro­pean sta­tus. At the time, this may have in­cluded ex­trav­a­gant so­cial gath­er­ings, own­er­ship of plan­ta­tions and spe­cial le­gal pro­tec­tion. For the In­done­sian wo­man, mar­riage be­came a tool for so­cial, eco­nomic and le­gal se­cu­rity.

Fast for­ward to to­day. Modern- day In­done­sia has seen con­sid­er­able changes in the world of in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples. Be­fore, mixed-race cou­ples en­joyed sev­eral perks with their mar­riage. Now, they are faced with a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion that comes with the dif­fi­cul­ties of glob­al­iza­tion. While multi- na­tional mar­riages still have so­cial, eco­nomic and le­gal di­men­sions, they are al­most al­ways not equally favourable for both peo­ple.

You may be sur­prised to learn that In­done­sian gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions do not treat all mar­ried multi­na­tional cou­ples the same. The rules ac­tu­ally vary de­pend­ing on whether the for­eign spouse is a man or a wo­man. Gov­ern­ment poli­cies that ap­ply to for­eign wives of In­done­sian na­tives are gen­er­ally dif­fer­ent from those that are ap­pli­ca­ble to ex­pat hus­bands of In­done­sian women.

The dif­fer­ence in treat­ment has been at­trib­uted to the con­text of work­ing. It is as­sumed that for­eign hus­bands of In­done­sian women are look­ing for a job, while for­eign wives of In­done­sian hus­bands are housewives and mothers.

The In­done­sian gov­ern­ment has a dif­fer­ing per­spec­tive on these two cases. For­eign hus­bands should, there­fore, se­cure a spon­sor­ship and work or stay per­mit be­fore they are is­sued a visa to re­side in the coun­try (hus­bands can ap­ply for a mar­riage visa if they don’t in­tend to work). They are treated as any other for­eigner who wants to come to In­done­sia for an ex­tended pe­riod. On the other hand, for­eign wives can en­ter In­done­sia un­der an ikut suami ( join­ing hus­band) sta­tus, as they are as­sumed to be just ‘ fol­low­ing the hus­band’ and the mar­riage cer­tifi­cate will hold enough weight to prove this sta­tus.

Some might ar­gue these poli­cies as un­fair or of­fen­sive. But let us leave aside the per­sonal and so­cials rea­sons of mar­riage in In­done­sia and get straight into the le­gal aspects of mar­ry­ing a lo­cal.

If you get mar­ried to an In­done­sian na­tional, you will be el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for a non-per­ma­nent res­i­dence per­mit (KITAS) – and in some cases a per­ma­nent res­i­dence (KITAP) when you have been mar­ried for more than two years. You don’t have to pay the an­nual US$1,200 to the Min­istry of Man­power be­cause this is a res­i­dence per­mit spon­sored by the spouse; your KITAS/ KITAP ac­tu­ally pro­hibits you from be­ing em­ployed in the coun­try.

If you would like to work in In­done­sia, you will need to have your em­ployer se­cure a work per­mit (IMTA) and pay the an­nual fee for you. While say­ing ‘I do’ to an In­done­sian will help you get a res­i­dence per­mit you may also do so with a mul­ti­ple- en­try busi­ness visa or by get­ting em­ploy­ment from a com­pany that will spon­sor your KITAS for you.

When it comes to reg­is­ter­ing a for­eign in­vest­ment com­pany (PT PMA) and in terms of the in­vest­ment law, note that mar­ry­ing an In­done­sian will nei­ther make you an In­done­sian na­tional nor any dif­fer­ent from other for­eign in­vestors in the eyes of the law. You are still re­quired to com­ply with reg­u­la­tions and the Neg­a­tive In­vest­ments List.

Un­der In­done­sian law, cou­ples have to sign a prenup­tial agree­ment that will stip­u­late that their as­sets are sep­a­rated be­fore they will be al­lowed to se­cure shares from the same com­pany.

Fi­nally, when it comes to own­ing prop­erty in In­done­sia, there are not many ad­van­tages to be­ing mar­ried. Ac­cord­ing to the coun­try’s Agrar­ian Law, In­done­sian land be­longs to In­done­sian peo­ple, so if you are an In­done­sian na­tive mar­ried to a for­eign hus­band or wife, your rights to own­ing land do not carry over to them.

The prenup­tial agree­ment is ac­tu­ally quite im­por­tant. Pre­vi­ously, if multi- na­tional cou­ples didn’t get this, then the In­done­sian spouse would not be al­lowed to own as­sets like prop­erty. The record would re­flect shared own­er­ship with their for­eign part­ner. For this rea­son, multi-na­tional cou­ples had to get a prenup­tial agree­ment if they hoped to ever have a fu­ture in­volv­ing the own­er­ship of as­sets like a home or au­to­mo­bile in In­done­sia. Re­cently, how­ever, this law was up­dated, say­ing that cou­ples in In­done­sia can now ap­ply for prenup­tial agree­ments dur­ing or even af­ter the mar­riage process. This was seen as a small win for multi-na­tional cou­ples in the ar­chi­pel­ago, par­tic­u­larly the ones that took their vows with­out first get­ting the prenup.

In the event that a multi-na­tional cou­ple buys land and the In­done­sian spouse dies, the for­eign spouse is given a year to sell the prop­erty to an In­done­sian na­tional, or else the land will be seized by the state from the for­eign spouse.

There are visa and busi­ness ben­e­fits for mar­ry­ing an In­done­sian, but al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tions are read­ily avail­able if you don’t in­tend to marry a lo­cal.

There’s no doubt that mar­riage has be­come more com­pli­cated as the world has grown glob­al­ized. To­day, we find that love (or what­ever rea­son you have for mar­ry­ing some­one) is now ac­com­mo­dated across na­tional bor­ders. In In­done­sia’s case, the scales seem bal­anced with perks and caveats.

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