Tongan workers involved in the New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employers programme were not able travel to New Zealand on Monday (February 18) as intended because Immigration New Zealand put their visa applications on hold.
A total of 35 Tongan seasonal workers have been affected by the delay and a further 120 workers are scheduled to make the journey over the next two weeks.
The visa issue was sparked by the recent decision of NZ Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, to require police clearances for Tongan visa applications.
In a statement released by the minister this week he said the visas would be on hold “until Immigration New Zealand can be satisfied with the integrity of the police clearance process.”
The Tongan Police is responsible for completing the checks.
CEO of Tongan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, Lopeti Senituli, who runs the seasonal workers scheme in Tonga said he was grateful for the efforts of NZ Immigration and the Tongan Police in resolving the matter but he was concerned that the hold-up was happening at the height of the harvest season.
With over 40 workers scheduled to travel by Friday, and 80 more next week, Senituli is hoping the new processes can be carried out as fast as possible.