A Memorandum of Understanding signed by Immigration New Zealand (INZ), Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) and six leading travel agencies in India is expected to ease and increase the number of business visitors from India to New Zealand.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, who was in Mumbai on November 6 to witness the signing ceremony, bona fide businesspersons attending conferences, seminars and exhibitions organised by reputed and well-established New Zealand organisations can expect to have their visa applications processed within three working days.
That in itself may be a good thing; for New Zealand receives about 35,000 visitors from India on an annual basis, although the number of Indians travelling overseas every year is more than 12 million (Source: Time Magazine). Associate Tourism Minister Paula Bennett said that New Zealand received only 500 business visitors from India last year.
Visit Visa is a subject that always disgruntles people, because most travellers expect approval overnight if not across the counter. The time taken to process applications varies between countries and the immigration regime in place. After considerable grumblings, INZ offices in Delhi and Mumbai have hastened the pace but applicants believe that is not good enough.
But if anyone expects to ‘walk through’ immigration counters, they should be warned against even making an attempt. New Zealand does not allow Indian nationals to arrive at its borders without a pre-issued visa. INZ officials have told us that Indian business visitors will not be eligible for visas upon arrival in New Zealand and that they would still be required to apply for a visitor visa in India.
INZ will assess each application to make sure that the person applying is a bona fide visitor visa application, and is planning to travel to New Zealand to participate in a specific business event.
“Increasing the number of visitors and migrants from major markets such as India is a key priority to growing the economy. We have seen a huge increase in Indian nationals coming to New Zealand to live, work, sightsee and study, and this agreement will open up opportunities for more business travel,” Ms Bennett said.
Our bet is that INZ will continue to abide by its own rules, systems and procedures and may not be over-enthusiastic in giving effect to such agreements.