The New Zealand Government has eased visa formalities for businesspersons from India to attend major events including conferences, seminars and exhibitions.
The new facility could see issue of Visitor Visas within three working days.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse was in Mumbai on November 6, 2014 to witness the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Immigration New Zealand (INZ), Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) and six travel agents.
INZ will be encouraged to fast track applications for Visitor Visas under the Agreement, but will retain its right to deny or delay if the processing officials have reason to suspect the bona fides of applicants.
The Tripartite Agreement is confined to six well-known travel agents. They are Club7 Holidays Limited, Cox & Kings Limited, Kuoni Travel India Private Limited, Thomas Cook (India) Limited, TUI – Le Passage to India Private Limited and Zenith Leisure Holidays Limited.
Mr Woodhouse said that the Agreement will substantially reduce paper work based on the proof provided by applicants that they have the means to sustain their stay in New Zealand and that they are genuine delegates to events that are recognised as important by INZ and Tourism New Zealand.
“This Agreement sends a clear message that New Zealand welcomes these high value visitors and supports the initiatives to grow the Business Events sector which is one of Tourism New Zealand’s strategic priority areas,” he said.
Mr Woodhouse said that New Zealand will become increasingly attractive as a MICE (Meetings, Initiatives, Conferences and Exhibitions) destination among business travellers with substantial growth underway in conference facilities in Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown.
Describing international tourism as one of the most important industries of New Zealand, Associate Tourism she said that the sector generated more than $10 billion income every year. About 35,000 Indians from India visit New Zealand every year she said.
However, the number of business visitors was no more than 500 last year, partly because New Zealand is still not properly understood by businesses in India and partly because of the cumbersome procedures and
“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 and the accompanying high returns,” she said.
According to Ms Bennett, TNZ’s ‘Business Events Programme’ aims to encourage more companies, organisations and people considering New Zealand as an attractive destination for their meetings and conferences.
“This Partnership is a step in the right direction,” she said.
However, the Agreement should not be taken as an open invitation and free for all, an INZ official has warned.
Answering specific questions from Indian Newslink, he said the Government was aware that not everyone attending business events could be categorised as businesspersons.
“While some events target a corporate audience, others do not. For example, some conferences may have an academic focus, attracting participants from overseas universities. INZ accepts that different sorts of business events will attract a different kind of audience,” he said.
“It is important to bear in mind that this is a tripartite agreement between the travel agents, Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) and INZ. TNZ has a business events team dedicated to the marketing and promotion of business events in New Zealand. INZ will be able to check with the TNZ business events team concerning the status of a particular New Zealand business event should this be deemed necessary.”
He also clarified that Indian business visitors will not be eligible for visas upon arrival in New Zealand and that they must apply for a Visitor Visa in India.
“INZ offices in Delhi or Mumbai will assess the applications to ensure the bona fides of the application and that they are planning to travel to New Zealand to participate in a specific business event. Before lodging visitor visa applications with INZ on behalf of business events visitors, the selected agents would be required to complete a set of pre–screening procedures prescribed by INZ,” he said.
Among those who attended the signing ceremony were former Black Caps Captain Stephen Fleming, Delhi-based INZ National Manager Simon Smith and TNZ Asia General Manager David Craig.