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[Media Release-MFAI]

Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration


Changes to New Zealand transit requirements enable visitors and migrant workers


The Cook Islands Government welcome recent changes introduced by the New Zealand Government over the weekend for people in the Pacific that need to transit New Zealand to return to their home country. The changes enable, between now and September, the return to home country for visitors and migrant workers in the Cook Islands.


The changes to New Zealand transit requirements include:


- until 4 September 2020 (NZT), if you are a citizen of Fiji and your immediate destination after transiting through New Zealand is Fiji, you do NOT require a transit visa or NZeTA; and

- until 19 September 2020 (NZT) if you are in the Cook Islands and need to transit New Zealand to return home and you would normally need a transit visa, you can transit New Zealand without applying for a transit visa if you meet certain conditions. Full details can be found on New Zealand Immigration website at https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas/apply-for-a-visa/tools-and-information/your-journey-to-new-zealand/before-you-travel-to-new-zealand/transit-passengers


New Zealand’s transit flexibility has been welcomed by Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) who have since January 2020 been closely engaged with multiple Governments on international border closures brought about by COVID-19 and the consequent impacts on travellers and residents of the Cook Islands.


“As a consequence of COVID-19, since January, the nature of our engagements with multiple partner governments has focused on border settings, consular support and health and economic responses,” said Secretary MFAI Tepaeru Herrmann. “Those engagements, multiple and sustained, have seen the safe return of Cook Islands and Cook Islands residents to the Cook Islands and supported the return to various parts of the world visitors stranded in the Cook Islands by COVID-19 border closures. In recent weeks, the widespread effects of international border closures have had prominent visibility and extensive impact on our business and wider communities. Those impacts will endure for many months and its incumbent on our government to take necessary steps to mitigate.”


MFAI have for some weeks now received requests for return home travel assistance for visitors and migrant workers. The interest has come from migrant workers wishing to return to be with their families as well as migrant employing businesses (predominantly from the tourism sector) who are experiencing significant downturn in business, in some cases business closure. More than 400 work permits have expired over the last 4 months.


However, worldwide border closures have prevented migrant worker return travel, this recent transit flexibility introduced by New Zealand makes possible some return travel and MFAI will in the coming days elevate engagement with migrant worker communities and concerned businesses to avail support as might be needed and canvas interest in return.


“In March, MFAI instituted concessions to work permit processing and fees conditions as part of governments comprehensive package of support towards business continuity and workforce preservation under Economic Response Plan (ERP) Phase I. The permit concessions availed through to the end of May coupled with the wage and unemployment subsidies made available under ERP 1 to those eligible, including migrant workers, has provided needed relief,” said MFAI Principal Immigration Officer Kairangi Samuela. “MFAI is acutely aware of the increasing challenges confronting all Cook Islands businesses and residents, including migrant workers, and we will over the next 2 weeks be engaging closely with our business and migrant worker communities, particularly our sizable communities from Fiji, the Philippines and Indonesia to canvas interest in return to home countries. There is a multitude of logistical and welfare issues that need to be worked through and we will proceed with due haste and sensitivity in the coming days.”


Those interested in return travel to home country are to register with MFAI by emailing immigration2@cookislands.gov.ck Alternatively, a visit to the Immigration Customer services Office in the New Zealand High Commission Building (office hours 9am – 3pm) or registering via phone-call to 29 347.


“COVID-19 has changed the whole world,” said Secretary Herrmann. “Whilst all effort is focused on multiple initiatives to mitigate against further deterioration in our health, social and economic circumstances, the challenges that are ahead of us are significant and all avenues need to be explored to mitigate the inevitable socio-economic impacts on our people. MFAI will continue to pursue conversations with multiple governments, including those of New Zealand, Fiji, the Philippines and Indonesia in the coming days as part of efforts to mitigate against the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 including supporting return home travel for visitors and migrant workers.”


Queries regarding this media release can be directed to kairangi.samuela@cookislands.gov.ck

Photos:

1. 8 May 2020, Rarotonga International Airport - Immigration and Customs Officials awaiting the arrival of Cook Islands residents repatriation flight Cohort 1 – far left Maya Solomon, Immigration Officer; 3rd from left Walter Tangata, Senior Customs Officer; 2nd from right Paul Taputu-Crombie, Senior Immigration Officer; far right Tereroa Pumati, Senior Immigration Compliance Officer;

2. 2 May 2019, MFAI Board Room - Principal Immigration Officer Kairangi Samuela providing border processing briefing to customs and immigration officials; and

3. 18 May 2020, MFAI Board Room – Virtual Meeting between MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann and Fiji Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister and Acting Foreign Secretary Yogesh Karan. Also in attendance for MFAI Amelia Fukofuka-Murare, Executive Support and Antonina Browne, Acting Director Pacific Division; for Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Esala Nayasi, Deputy Secretary MFA


End.

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