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Starting from the first March 2014, Papua New Guinea is implementing new rules for Australian nationals visiting the country. The visa on arrival regime will be discontinued. Visitors wishing to travel to Papua New Guinea will need to obtain their visas or entry permits before beginning their journeys. They will no longer receive visas at the point of entry, as has been the case before. The consequences of turning up at a Papua New Guinea border without a valid visa could prove extremely inconvenient and expensive. According to a government advertisement issued in a local newspaper, if a person does travel without a visa, they may be repatriated to another airport and not necessarily where they came from. For instance, an Australian national coming in to Papua New Guinea from Cairns without a visa could be repatriated to Singapore if that was the next available flight.

While this new visa regime has been long in coming, it is finally in place this month and the Australian business community is not pleased. Australia and Papua New Guinea have had a special relationship for a long time and Australian nationals have enjoyed relatively free access into the country, all but needing their passports stamped at arrivals and departures without the requirement for any pre travel documentation. The new regime makes that a requirement. It is understandable that Australians, particularly Australian businesspeople, see the move as retrograde, as something that brings in an additional bureaucratic measure that could well be done without. An apex body of Australian businesses doing business with Papua New Guinea is making representations to the governments of both countries to ensure this new regime does not prove to be a bother.

Countries generally like to have reciprocal arrangements for travel. It makes things simpler for the citizens of the two countries to interact with one another, to do business more easily. Visa on arrival, travel permits and visa free travel are some of the different arrangements countries agree on to facilitate easier travel for their citizens. But such countries usually have other strong agreements for cooperation in place with enough reciprocal safeguards to deal with any potential problems, especially legal, concerning the people that are travelling. These arrangements could mean close cooperation between their customs and immigration departments of the two countries, strong information technology systems where information is easily shared and quick redress to contentious cross border problems. In other words, the two countries in question must be friendly to each other and share a broad understanding, have mutual respect and have similar legal systems.

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We Say is compiled and edited by Laisa Taga.

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