One of the more obscure Visa categories is the Transit Visa. This is a Visa required by people who are “transit passengers” and are intending to travel to and be in New Zealand only as a “transit passenger”. A “transit passenger” is defined in immigration instructions as persons who:

“arrive in New Zealand from another country while in transit to another overseas destination” and “throughout the entire period during which they are in New Zealand, remain on board the craft they came to New Zealand on, or in an immigration control area, or in the custody of the Police”.

When I first came across this Visa category I was surprised that some people require a Visa to even be in a New Zealand airport, let alone venture out past customs. There are however a number of exceptions. In effect, there are about 21 countries which the citizens of require a Transit Visa to enter a New Zealand, which are:

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname.

There was an article that appeared in the Sunday Star Times recently which described a Ministry of Transport report indicating that New Zealand would become “a more attractive prospect for international airlines if transit visa requirements were relaxed”. Auckland Airport Aeronautical and Commercial General Manager, Norris Carter, was quoted as saying that the move could be of great economic value to New Zealand, by making New Zealand appear more attractive to airlines looking for a stopover on new routes.

I guess it strikes me as a little bit odd that Auckland could become an airline hub for flights from places like North Korea and the Maldives, but I suppose the countries of growing relevance on the list of countries currently requiring a Transit Visa waiver are China and India. The Sunday Star Times article mentions China to South America routes as a possibility, with New Zealand being a well-placed stop over. The articles mentions, as an example, that many visitors to New Zealand from India use Singapore as a stop-over rather than Australia because this removes the need for a Transit Visa.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges was quoted as saying that “as Transport Minister I’m keen to capitalise on opportunities to promote New Zealand as an international air hub. This could encourage more airlines and more flights, particularly to these long-haul destinations – to operate with New Zealand as a stop-over”.

Personally I find the entire concept rather interesting. If there is an economic opportunity in allowing easy stop-overs in our Airports for citizens of growing economic powerhouses like China and India, then perhaps it would make sense not to shy away from this. The perception that some politicians (think Winston Peters) like to create that New Zealand is being overrun by migrants must surely be misplaced in this case, as the travellers would not be able to leave the airport! I’m not sure though, what economic value there would be in taking countries like North Korea and the Maldives off list of countries that require a Transit Visa. Go figure.