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Changes To Thai And Czech Visa Requirements

Thai and Czech Republic visitors to New Zealand will require visitor visas from 1 January 2001, Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel announced today.

Lianne Dalziel said the Government is suspending its visa waiver agreements with the Czech Republic and Thailand as a result of the number of visitors claiming refugee status when in New Zealand, being refused entry at the border, or working illegally in New Zealand.

Currently, people from Thailand and the Czech Republic can travel to New Zealand visa-free, and genuine visitors are granted three-month visitor permits on arrival at the border.

"The changes will mean that Thai and Czech Republic nationals will need to obtain Visitor Visas before they depart their countries for New Zealand.

"New Zealand and the Czech Republic have had a reciprocal visa waiver arrangement since October 1996 to facilitate travel, trade, tourism and education links. The same visa waiver status with Thailand was introduced in November 1987.

"The visa waiver programme was designed to facilitate travel for genuine visitors to New Zealand, but the scheme is being abused by some Thai and Czech nationals seeking to either work illegally in New Zealand or to lodge unfounded refugee claims.

"Our immigration policy encourages migrants with skills to be part of New Zealand life, and also protects refugees who have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country. But we must move to put a stop to people seeking to prop up illegal work practices and those who are diverting valuable time and resource from genuine refugee claims.

"The recent rise in the number of refugee claims by Thai and Czech nationals is perhaps explained by the ability of refugee claimants to obtain work permits and access to the benefit system.

"At the same time we want to assure bona fide visitors that they are welcome and still encouraged to visit New Zealand.

"We have opened a NZ Immigration Service office in Bangkok to facilitate Visitor Visa applications. Czech visa applications will initially be processed by the NZIS in London while options for an office closer to the Czech Republic are urgently considered," Lianne Dalziel said.

The Thai and Czech Republic Governments have been consulted about the suspension of the visa waivers. Thai and Central European travel agencies and airlines have been advised of the changes and they have been asked to advise intending travellers of New Zealand's visa requirements.

People who have already purchased tickets for travel to New Zealand prior to today's announcement should immediately contact their nearest NZIS office, NZ High Commission, Embassy or Consulate.


(Note: Fact sheet attached.)

8 December 2000

Changes to Thai and Czech Republic visa requirements

Immigration Facts:

Thailand

 In 1999/2000 there were 22,771 Thai visitors to New Zealand (1.6 percent of visitors to New Zealand)
 In 1999/2000, Thai nationals represented 73 percent (905) of the 1239 people refused entry into New Zealand
 On average, 30 Thai nationals a month, make refugee claims
 Current trends forecast about 500 refugee claims by Thai nationals in 2000/2001.
 There were only 24 claims for refugee status from Thai nationals in 1997/1998
 Of the 188 decisions on Thai refugee claims made in the year to date, only one was approved.


Czech Republic

 In 1999/2000 there were 1630 Czech visitors to New Zealand (0.1 percent of visitors to New Zealand)
 In 1999/2000, a total 129 (7.9 percent) of these visitors claimed refugee status
 In 1999/2000 Czech nationals comprised 9.3 percent of refugee status claims and were the third largest group of nationalities claiming refugee status
 Of the 34 Czech refugee claims finalised between 1 July 1998 and 20 November 2000, none were approved
 Between 1 July 2000 and 10 November 2000, there were 509 Czech visitors
 In that period 67 (13.2 percent) claimed refugee status
 Czech nationals are the second largest group of refugee status claimants in 2000/2001
 Current trends predict at least 195 claims will be made in 2000/2001
 No refugee status claims were lodged by Czech nationals between 1991/1992 and 1996/1997
 Two refugee status claims were made in 1997/1998


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