Papua New Guinea visa/work permit update


Australian government announcement raises hopes of reducing PNG red tape

Last November, the Australian government announced a radical overhaul of visa processing for Papua New Guineans visiting Australia, including the introduction of a special electronic visa arrangement.

The move, to be implemented in the middle of this year, was welcomed by the Australian Papua New Guinea Business Council (APNGBC) that had been lobbying for some time for an end to the long wait times prospective visitors from PNG currently experience.

‘Facilitating applications by Papua New Guineans for travel to Australia for business, employment, medical and other reasons will bring our communities even closer together,’ said Peter Taylor, the APNGBC’s President.

Cadden Crowe's Scott Roberts

Cadden Crowe’s Scott Roberts

It also raises hopes that the PNG government may simplify its own immigration procedures. PNG has the most stringent visa regulations of any Pacific Island Forum country, with business visitors needing a letter from a sponsoring host company for even the shortest visits and even tourists needing to pay a fee. For the many requiring work permits, Scott Roberts, Vice President of the APNGBC, knows only too well just how challenging the process can be. He is Managing Principal of Brisbane-based HR firm Cadden Crowe, which assists companies through the painstaking process.

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‘The process should take 15 working days and, in fairness, it often does, but if there are any issues then applications can appear to disappear and it takes considerable effort to ascertain status. The relevant departments are under-resourced and it is very hard to find out exactly what stage an application has reached.’

But he is also in no doubt that long-held resentment over the treatment of Papua New Guineans visiting neighbouring Australia has played a major role in shaping current regulations. Therefore it is no surprise that just a month after the Australian government’s conciliatory announcement, the following proposals to improve access of business people to PNG were apparently received sympathetically at the 21st Australia Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum:

  • Taking action to streamline the current standard work permit/visa process
  • Introducing a new type of short-term work visa to avoid the current work permit process.
  • Advance visa processing to be undertaken in Cairns, to reduce queues at Jacksons Airport in Port Moresby and facilitate direct flights from Cairns to other destinations around PNG.

It is likely that the implementation of such measures would benefit not just Australian visitors to PNG, but many other nationalities as well.

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