Frequent flyers get easy NZ visa pass

Last updated 15:31 14/11/2012

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Immigration New Zealand has stuck a deal with China Southern Airlines to fast-track the visitor visa applications of the airline's gold and silver frequent flyer cardholders.

The deal was outlined in a leaked memo from June which shows the visitors would be able to "avoid the necessity to answer questions relating to financial backing and employment history and provide evidence of these".

The airline, whose representatives Immigration Minister Nathan Guy met with in April, wanted all visas to be processed through Guangzhou and visitors to book their holidays through China Southern Airlines to be entitled to have their applications fast-tracked.

Immigration NZ said the visitors were likely to be low risk and met the requirement of having sufficient funds by virtue of their cardholder status.

A further leaked email shows Immigration's national manager of intelligence and risk, Shaun Driscoll, raised concerns the deal risked "imported criminality".

Being a frequent flier was "hardly a mitigation factor", he said.

"Every international criminal I have come across is probably a member of such a club."

Immigration NZ did not seem to have learnt from the recent China visa scam where fraudulent visas were issued through a fast-tracked system out of its Beijing office, Driscoll said.

The proposed deal "set a very dangerous precedent and defers risk assessment to uninformed expedience in the way that seems to have been proposed".

Guy told Parliament today his meeting with the airline wasn't a secret.

"Yes, there has been a deal struck that is going to allow high net worth individuals to come into New Zealand to ensure we continue to grow our tourism benefits."

There would still be some checks, he said.

"That will mean they will still need to get a visa and meet health and good character checks."

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