INDEPENDENT NEWS

Tongan Official Did Not Require Visa For Meeting

Published: Thu 17 Jun 2004 05:30 PM
Tongan Official Did Not Require Visa For Meeting
A misunderstanding may have led Tonga's acting secretary for finance, Meleseni Lomu, to think she required a visa to attend an official meeting in Rotorua last weekend, says Immigration Minister Paul Swain.
Mr Swain says this was not the case, as Mrs Lomu already has a multiple entry visa for New Zealand that was valid for the Pacific Forum economic ministers meeting and for further visits into next year.
"She applied for a multiple entry visa for New Zealand in April this year, and this was issued by the NZIS office in Tonga within one day. She has since entered New Zealand twice on this visa. This visa remains valid and I am at a loss to understand why Mrs Lomu was under the impression she needed to obtain another visa to attend the meeting," Mr Swain said.
Mr Swain said it appeared that there may have been some confusion between Mrs Lomu and the High Commission in Tonga about the need for a visa, and this was complicated by her concerns about the pregnancy testing issue.
"There is no mandatory policy requiring women to undergo a pregnancy test to obtain a visa. Certainly in the case of a senior government official who travels regularly to New Zealand, a pregnancy test would be out of the question.
"Being pregnant is not in itself a barrier for a woman from any country being issued a visa," Mr Swain said. "But in certain circumstances NZIS officers can ask women applying for visitor's visas to take a pregnancy test. This should only occur where specific reasons suggest the applicant may be intending to give birth while in New Zealand, for example if she'd previously had a baby here."
Mr Swain acknowledged that the requirement had been over-zealously applied in the past by the NZIS's Tonga office. "It was brought to my attention late last month that tests were being requested more routinely than was appropriate. The NZIS has apologised and the situation has been rectified. All NZIS offices have been reminded of the limited circumstances in which they can request a pregnancy test.
"Mrs Lomu is recognised as a senior government official who travels regularly on a diplomatic passport, and any offence that may have been taken is regretted," Mr Swain said.
ENDS

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