16 April 2009

Australian visas causing trouble for PNG rugby league players

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Restrictions for temporary Australian visas for sportspeople are making it hard for Papua New Guinea (PNG) rugby league professionals to play for Australian clubs.

The strict requirements of the Australian visas mean that many of PNG's top rugby league players are looking to the UK rather than Australia to play in top rugby league clubs.

The Australian visas required by international sportspeople to play in Australia is the Australian Sport Visa (Subclass 421).  This visa allows players, coaches or instructors to enter Australia if they are contracted to a sports club or organisation, if they have an 'established reputation'.  The alternative for those contracted for longer than two years is applying for the Skillled Temporary Business (Long Stay) (Subclass 457) visa

Essentially, an Australian visa application for the Sport Visa will not be approved unless the club supports it with a large cash bond, so that the Government can rest assured that the Australian visa holder will comply with the visa conditions. 

According to the Brisbane Times, PNG rugby league chairman Albert Veratau told AAP that at least ten of PNG's top players have not had their Australian visa application approved to be able to play in Australia because they could not meet the strict requirements.

"PNG has talent that needs to be developed, sadly but understandably, NRL clubs can't commit or gamble large sums of money for players to pass the visa requirements," Veratau said.

"Kumuls Michael Marks and Charlie Wabo went to the UK and are playing in a second tier competition.  They weren't able to get into Australia because they needed to be on something like a minimum of $40,000 salary.  I have raised the problem a number of times with the Australian Rugby League but it's a government position."
 
Another PNG official joined the debate, joking that the players should join the Pacific Islander guest worker pilot scheme.  Under the scheme, Australia would provide 2,500 temporary Australian working visas to labourers from Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea so that specific horticultural regions can have extra labour to help harvest crops.

"Pick fruit in the week and play footy on weekend, perhaps, as a way around the problem," he said.


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