Keep NZ visa "conversation alive," says Fonoti Agnes Loheni

Samoans should keep the “conversation alive” when it comes to New Zealand’s immigration policy requiring Samoans to be subjected to a stringent screening process to obtain a visa.

That's the opinion of New Zealand Member of Parliament, Fonoti Agnes Loheni, who was in Samoa last week.

Samoa and New Zealand share a Treaty of Friendship but the issue of visas has been a sticking point for many Samoans, especially ones who have no desire to stay in New Zealand and yet are required to go through the process.

“There has been a lot of discussions about it," said Fonoti. 

"I think that is an ongoing discussion and we should never stop talking about it, the door is never closed to those conversations. 

“We need to keep this conversation alive and obviously, the New Zealand government wants to make sure there is equity for everybody.

"There is always other factors they are looking at and we want to make sure that if people are coming to New Zealand they’ve got opportunities."

Last year, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern strongly defended her country’s immigration policy when she visited Samoa.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Ms. Ardern said while the visa requirements might be annoying, New Zealand offers Samoa other more favorable immigration entry policies like the annual Quota scheme. 

“Samoa has access through a quota system,” she said. “There is the Seasonal work scheme as well and through some of the specific programmes we’re developing around carpentry and other areas.

“Those are the things not every nation has that Samoa have and so there are things that are unique to our relationship. 

“Not least to the fact that we have a significant resident population in New Zealand of the Samoan community that makes a massive part of who we are and our identity and I think that’s what makes it unique.” 

Told that Jamaicans, Japanese and Italians do not need visas to enter New Zealand yet they don’t have a Treaty of Friendship, Ms. Ardern said those countries don’t have the luxury that Samoa has.

“But they equally cannot come through a Quota System and a seasonal work scheme as well,” she said. 

“There are differences to every relationship that do make them unique.”

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