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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Tongan Seasonal Workers Held Up By Visa Processing Hold
Employment in New Zealand delayed till police clearances reviewed

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 20, 2013) – A group of 35 Tongan seasonal workers who were due to leave for New Zealand on Monday remain on stand-by in Nuku'alofa, under an Immigration New Zealand hold on some Tongan visa applications. Another 120 workers who are scheduled to leave over the next two weeks will also be affected by the new rule.

The workers under the New Zealand Recognized Seasonal Employers program are affected by the NZ immigration minister's recent decision to hold Tongan visa applications that require police clearances.

Lopeti Senituli the CEO of Tonga's Ministry of Internal Affairs who runs the program said that the 35 workers were ready to depart for New Zealand on Monday, February 18.

"But they are on stand-by until Tonga Police and New Zealand Immigration gives the all clear," he said.

His ministry was working in close cooperation with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and Tonga Police to have the 35 police clearances re-checked and approved. "We are hopeful they can leave today, Wednesday February 20," he said.

The Ministry has another 40 workers who were scheduled to leave on Friday February 22. Again their police clearances need to be re-checked and cleared by Tonga Police and INZ.

"At the same time another 80 workers are scheduled to depart next week. We hope the backlog is cleared up for them to depart as scheduled," he said.

Lopeti said they are grateful to Immigration NZ and Tonga Police "for their ready cooperation in order to ensure there is minimal disruption to the seasonal workers travel schedule. But of course this is the height of the harvest season," he said.

Clearances

NZ Immigration Minister Hon. Michael Woodhouse in a statement on February 19 said, the visas would be held "until Immigration New Zealand can be satisfied with the integrity of the police clearance process."

Applications for residence and most work visas need a police clearance. This is not needed for short term visas such as a visitor visa.

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