If Amanda and her team were excited about the new changes to the Australian working holiday visa last week, then it is the New Zealand Visa Bureau's turn to breathe a big sigh of relief. After many months of consultation, the UK Government has finally decided to continue running the New Zealand ancestry visa program and allow free access for Kiwis for up to six months. Phew!
The British Home Office are having a big clean-up of their immigration system, and have been looking at the policies of other countries, mainly Australia, to base their new "simplified" structure on. Although they're more interested in a new "Path to Citizenship", where migrants have to "earn" their right to become a UK citizen, they were also looking to restrict access to the UK for Commonwealth citizens.
Here in the New Zealand Visa Bureau, we all feared the Home Office would listen to suggestions to restrict the six month visa-free access to three months, or cancel rights to get a five year UK ancestry visa. Thousands of New Zealanders live, work, and play in London already - city life just wouldn't be the same without the Kiwi contingent!
Luckily for New Zealanders, the doors have stayed open. Those who have grandparents born in the UK can still apply for a five-year working and residency visa, and the six month visa-free access is out there for the taking.
Apparently, PM Helen Clark has been batting for New Zealand so that young Kiwis can keep flying to the UK. In a press release, she told the country she understands how important it is for young people to have an OE in the UK, and went directly to Gordon Brown to ask him to reconsider.
And so she should. The New Zealand Immigration policy has been more than welcoming to UK citizens. UK travellers also have six month visa-free access to New Zealand, and Brits on a working holiday visa are entitled to 23 months in NZ (everybody else in the working holiday program only get 12 months!).
Imagine having that much time to see all the breathtaking sights New Zealand has to offer, or watch the adrenaline-pumping activities in the country's adventure capital Queenstown change to match the season. You could even catch a full live season of the Super 14s Rugby Union competition, or just chill out in a batch for six months on the Coromandel.
It's no wonder Britons make up the second largest source of tourism for the Land of the Long White Cloud – I think they're getting a pretty good deal!
Thanks to the announcements this week from Ms Clark, it gives me great pleasure to tell our NZ and UK clients they can still go on their well-deserved holiday to the other end of the world, just as their brothers, sisters, mates, parents (even myself) have done before them. It just wouldn't be fair if the fun stopped here!
- Andy Harwood is the CEO of the Visa Bureau.
©Visa Bureau 2003-2010