Tongan nationals troubled over passport shortage as NZ security tightened

Hundreds of Tongans who need new passports to enter New Zealand have faced difficulties, with many visa applications being declined after the country rejected Tonga’s Certificate of Identity on its own.

Immigration New Zealand will not accept the Certificates of Identity (COIs) without the holders being able to provide other forms of identification.

New Zealand requires either a New Zealand driver’s license or an expired Tongan passport as supporting identity documents.

Groups such as Recognised Seasonal Employee visa applicants who had planned to travel to New Zealand will need to get supporting letters from the RSE office in Tonga.

Some of those who had complained to Kaniva News said they did not hold New Zealand drivers’ licenses or expired Tongan passports since this was the first time they had applied for Tongan passports.

One complainant said she was surprised after she was issued with a COI in Tonga but then allegedly told at the immigration office she could not use it to apply for a visa to New Zealand.

The trouble came after the kingdom announced in August it had run out of passports.

The sudden shortage was attributed to high local demand and from Tongans living overseas, the government said.

While waiting for the new stock, which was expected to arrive next month, the Tongan government issued the COI to those who had applied for a new passport or whose passports had expired.

“Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is very aware of the current low stock of Tongan passports”, an Immigration New Zealand spokesperson said.

“INZ has some concerns about the security features of the current Certificate of Identity (COI) being issued by the Tongan government until the new stock of passports arrives.

“Although Tongan nationals can lodge a visa application with a COI, a further form of identification is required before a visa can be issued.

“The most preferred form of identity alongside the COI is an expired Tongan passport. However, INZ may also accept other forms of verifiable evidence of identity such as a New Zealand driver’s licence, or in the case of an RSE application, certification/facilitation documents from RSE officials in Tonga.

“Signs about the issue are prominently displayed at INZ’s Nuku’alofa office and there has been extensive advertising in local media.”

The main points

  • Hundreds of Tongans who need new passports to enter New Zealand have faced difficulties, with many visa applications being declined after the country rejected Tonga’s Certificate of Identity on its own.
  • The trouble came after the kingdom announced in August it had run out of passports.
  • The sudden shortage was attributed to high local demand and from Tongans living overseas, the government said.
  • While waiting for more passports, the Tongan government issued the Certificate of Identity to those who had applied for a new passport or whose passports had expired.

For more information

Tonga out of passports until October

NZ, Australia, working on passport problem

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