Indonesia deports US travel influencer who encouraged others to move to Bali amid Covid-19

Authorities said the American citizens had violated their visa stay by conducting business and working in Bali. 

Kayla Wong | January 20, 2021, 04:51 PM

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An American travel influencer went viral for her tweets promoting a seemingly better and easier life in Bali as a foreigner, as compared to life in Los Angeles.

However, she has been deported back to the U.S. for a visa violation, Tempo reported.

Guide contained links to visa agents

The self-described digital nomad, Kristen Antoinette Gray, had promoted an e-book titled "Our Bali Life is Yours".

She said the book is a guide that elaborates how she and her girlfriend, Saundra Michelle Alexander, managed to settle in Bali.

The book, which she was selling for US$30 (S$39), contains "direct links" to their visa agents to help those interested "get into Indonesia during Covid", she said.

"We're just two black girls trying to give knowledge and build a community of humans who know their divinity and want to thrive vs survive," she added.

Gray, who had been living in Bali since early 2020 with her girlfriend, had also bragged about her "elevated lifestyle" in Bali, where she could live in a "treehouse" for just US$400 (S$530) a month, as compared to US$1,300 (S$1,720) per month for a studio in Los Angeles.

She further expanded on the benefits of moving to Bali, crediting the Indonesian province for its "safety", "low cost of living", "luxury lifestyle", "black community", and for being "queer friendly".

You can see the entire Twitter thread here.

Indonesians angry at foreigners seen as taking advantage of their country

But Gray's comments sparked furore among Indonesians who accused her of, among many things, asking other foreigners to find a "sanctuary" in Bali, even though Bali is struggling with Covid-19 cases.

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Some social media users also argued that since she has been living and working in Bali, she should be paying taxes in Indonesian rupiah to the local government.

In response to a tweet asking if they are paying local taxes, Alexander said "Why would I have to pay taxes if I never made IRD? I pay American taxes for making USD."

This resulted in some backlash.

After news of her pending deportation was released, many netizens "celebrated" the move.

Overstayed their welcome

The Indonesian government announced in a statement on Tuesday, Jan. 19, that the two American citizens had violated their visa stay by conducting business and working in Bali.

They were staying in Bali on visitors visas, which are for foreigners taking a vacation in Indonesia, Tempo reported, citing Jamaruli Manihuruk, head of the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s Bali branch office.

Gray's visa was due to expire on Jan. 24 after having been extended on Dec. 22 last year.

Both Gray and Alexander have been banned from entering Indonesia for the next six months.

The government further said that her effort at getting more foreigners to come stay in Bali at a time when it is still trying to contain the pandemic was unsettling to the public.

Indonesia has imposed a ban on international visitors until Jan. 25 in a bid to stem the the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gray says she is "not guilty"

Gray, whose Twitter and Instagram accounts were locked after the controversy, dug in her heels, telling Balinese press that she is "not guilty".

In her statement, she also appeared to hit back at criticisms, saying she had not overstayed her visa, and that she had not made any Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia.

Instead, she believed that her deportation was personal, saying the decision was made due to her statement about LGBT issues.

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Top image adapted via Kanalbali & Twitter