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New Zealand Citizens Now Need Visas For Torres Strait Area

By doina — last modified May 26, 2006 11:42 AM

Published: 2006-05-26 11:42:26
Countries: Australia

On 22 July 2005 in an effort to clamp down on people smuggling, the Torres Strait area became an excised migration zone which means that visa applications cannot be granted in this region. All non-Australian passport holders travelling on non-commercial vessels arriving from a place outside Australia into an excised offshore place must hold a visa for travel to Australia.

This affects New Zealand passport holders on yachts above all. New Zealand citizens do not ordinarily require a visa to travel to Australia. They do, however, require a visa to enter and remain in Australia and usually apply for a Special Category Visa (SCV) upon arrival. SCVs are usually granted in immigration clearance. Excision legislation does not allow a person to make an application for a visa if they have arrived without one.

Therefore, if the yacht arrives from overseas into Thursday Island, any person onboard who does not hold a valid visa, cannot apply for a visa in immigration clearance, and is therefore deemed to be an Offshore Entry Person (OEP)and is unlawful. Entry will be refused and the person/s may be detained. All OEP's are barred from future visa applications in clearance. This has serious ramifications in particular for New Zealand passport holders as they will then have to apply for a visa at an overseas post to allow future entry to Australia.

The authorities are currently looking at ways in which the visa outcomes for emergency scenarios in the Torres Strait can be addressed. They are also working on legislation to improve outcomes for New Zealand citizens who arrive at Excised Offshore Places such as the Torres Strait. In the meantime, yachts should either enter Australia at a proclaimed port on the mainland; or apply in advance for a visa from an Australian Mission overseas.

For more information you can contact Customs on Thursday Island toroff@customs.gov.au or Tel. (07)4083 1800.

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