22 April 2009

Australian visas for sportspeople making waves in the Pacific

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Restrictions for temporary Australian visas for sportspeople has been causing trouble for many top athletes from Pacific Islands looking to start their contracts in Australia.

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 Temporary Business (Long Stay) (Subclass 457) visa

The issue with the Australian visas for sportspeople is that they require a large cash bond from the contracting club to prove that the applicant will commit playing for that club and not breach the conditions of their specific Australian visa.

Last week, the Brisbane Times reported that many of PNG's top rugby league players are looking to the UK rather than Australia to play in top rugby league clubs because they cannot meet the financial conditions of their Australian visa application

"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," PNG rugby league chairman Albert Veratau told AAP.

"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."

This week, the Solomon Star said that Solomon Islands soccer players are now suffering similar restrictions.  Three national soccer stars - Henry Faárodo Junior, James Naka and Joe Luwi - have been offered places by clubs to play in Australia, yet they are still waiting to have their Australian visa applications approved by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). 

Luwi has already reconsidered his move to Australia and has re-signed with his local club KOSSA in the Top Eight Chamionship.

"Luwi’s International Transfer Certificate was backed as his sporting visa was not approved," said Kossa Team Manager Willie Lai. 

"It requires a minimum amount of payment before sporting visas can be approved.  The wait had been frustrating for the player and he has decided to remain with KOSSA," he explained.

Kapi Natto, a big-wig in Solomon Island soccer, said Australia is doing damage to the development of the sport in his nation, and should be responsible for nurturing them instead – particularly in the lead-up to the Football World Cup.

"A lot of Pacific Island countries are preparing for the World Cup, which starts next year and PNG footballers need more exposure at a higher level of competition such as in New Zealand League (New Zealand), QSL and the A-League (Australia) to be competitive in preparation for World Cup qualifier campaign," Natto said.


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