Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru no longer visa free

  • Lianne Dalziel

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel today announced that the visitor visa-waiver scheme for Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru nationals will be suspended from 12am Monday 8 December 2003.

“From 8 December all visitors from Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru will need to obtain a visa in order to travel here,” Lianne Dalziel said.

The main purpose of the move is to provide a consistent visa policy for all Pacific countries and the change brings Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru into line with this.

Visa waivers for a number of Pacific Islands countries were introduced in December 1986, allowing people to visit New Zealand visa-free for up to three months. However, a surge in visitor numbers meant visa requirements for most Pacific countries were reimposed shortly afterwards.

“It is now appropriate to also reintroduce visa requirements for visitors from Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru,” said Lianne Dalziel.

“The visa requirement policy does not detract from New Zealand’s ties with the Pacific, which are as warm and strong as ever. However, it is important that the adverse impacts of immigration are properly managed. Work and study already require visas so the change will not be that significant.

“The Pacific Access Category, which the government introduced last year, provides preferential access for permanent residents from a number of Pacific countries including Tuvalu and Kiribati and explicitly recognises the importance of New Zealand’s relationships with our Pacific neighbours. In the case of Tuvalu and Kiribati, the residence category replaced outdated work schemes,” she said.

People from Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru will need to apply for visitor’s visas from the New Zealand Immigration Service office in Suva, if they are travelling to New Zealand or if they are transiting New Zealand on their way to or from other destinations, although this will carry no cost.

Special provision can be made for genuine visitors already scheduled to travel to New Zealand but who do not have time to apply for a visa. Similarly, bona fide visitors and regular business travellers can take advantage of multi-entry visas which will allow travel to New Zealand without applying for a visa every time.

Questions And Answers

What is the purpose of these changes?
There are two main reasons for requiring visitors from Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru to obtain a visa before travelling to New Zealand:

  • It will provide a consistent visa policy for all Pacific countries;
  • It will reduce New Zealand's exposure to the adverse impacts of immigration, such as overstaying.

Unfortunately, the overstayer to visitor ratios put Tuvalu and Kiribati among the top five overstayer groups, on a percentage basis.

When does the new rule apply?
From 12.00am on Monday 8 December 2003.

What kind of impact will these changes have on visitors from the three countries?
Like nationals of most of the other Pacific Islands, travellers who want to visit New Zealand will need first to apply for a visitor's visa. Applications will need to be made to the NZIS Suva office. Travellers who arrive without a visitor's visa may not be allowed to enter New Zealand. They would be referred to the NZ Immigration Service on arrival. However, there will be transitional arrangements in place to ensure genuine travellers who are scheduled to visit New Zealand and who do not have time to apply for a visa, are able to travel.

What will happen to people who are booked to travel to New Zealand at the time of the change, or who are scheduled to travel soon, and do not have a visitor's visa or time to apply for one?
People in this position should first check with their airlines or travel agents. Airlines can seek prior approval from the NZ Immigration Service for a person to travel when they do not have a visa. NZIS will facilitate travel for people who had made travel arrangements before the visa requirement was introduced. Unless the NZIS has good reason to believe they pose an unacceptable risk, they will be allowed to travel.

Won't it unduly inconvenience visitors from these countries to have to apply for visitor's visas in Suva?
Many people from the Pacific already have to apply for visas from NZIS offices based in other countries. Work and student visas for people from Tuvalu and Nauru are already processed by the NZIS office in Suva. The NZIS office in Suva will make every effort to process visitor visa applications, and return travel documents as quickly as possible. There are travellers, for example regular business travellers, who can take advantage of multi-entry visas which allow them to travel to New Zealand without applying for a visa every time.

What happens if someone needs to travel to New Zealand urgently and does not have time to apply for a visa?
People needing to travel in the case of an emergency, such as the sudden illness or death of a close family member, will have access to the existing provisions for discretionary individual visa waivers that allow for emergency travel to New Zealand. People in this situation should contact their airline for information. They will need to provide evidence of the nature of their emergency travel. The airline will contact the NZIS to seek prior approval for the person to enter New Zealand without a visa.

Will people transiting New Zealand be required to apply for visas?
Anyone from visa required countries who is travelling to or from these three countries via New Zealand will need to apply for a transit visa, unless they hold another type of valid New Zealand visa, or are travelling to Australia and hold a valid Australian visa. Nationals from all visa required countries travelling to these three countries via New Zealand will also require a transit visa. Nationals of some Pacific countries, including Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru, are exempt from paying a fee for a transit visa.

Will it cost residents of the three countries to obtain a visa to visit New Zealand?
Nationals of these countries will pay NZ$85 for a visitor's visa, the same fee that applies to visitors from other Pacific Islands countries. As noted, travellers from Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru who will be transiting New Zealand are exempt from paying the transit visa fee.

Are there any Pacific Islands countries that do not require a visa for travel to New Zealand?
People from the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue are New Zealand citizens and therefore do not require a visa to travel to New Zealand. People from French Polynesia and New Caledonia are French citizens and therefore have visa free status with New Zealand.