The great China Southern Airlines beatup

A typical story on this issue has been this Stuff one:

 SkyCity boasted about bringing high-rolling gamblers to New Zealand aboard China Southern Airlines through a fast-tracked visa process a year before New Zealand recommended that the Government sign a deal with the carrier.

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy was this week forced to reveal an agreement with the airline, which comes into effect next week, for its gold and silver frequent-flier cardholders to skip normal border checks after leaked documents were released by NZ First leader Winston Peters. …

Mr Peters said yesterday that SkyCity had been pushing for the scheme for years. “Their high-rollers already operate under these new rules, which means a casino and a communist government airline have under [Mr Guy’s] deal with them, now acquired privileges for their customers not available to any other group of people anywhere else in the world.”

Police listed common offences by Asian crime syndicates as extortion, drug trafficking, identity fraud and people smuggling, he told Parliament.

This story may be the biggest beat up of the year. The seemed to have gone out of their way to be as non-specific as possible as to what has been agreed, because the truth is boringly mundane. Here are the facts.

  • This agreement has nothing to do with anyone in China getting a work visa, a residency visa, a long-term visa or even citizenship (apply via Dover Samuels). It is purely about being able to visit New Zealand temporarily.
  • 57 countries can have their citizens visit New Zealand without any visa at all. So what Peters say about privileges not available to any other group of people in the world is absolute nonsense. If you are a citizen of any of those 57 countries you can visit NZ without even needing a visa so long as you are not a criminal or been deported from another country
  • Those countries for which we require a visa, tend to be relatively poor countries. We do not allow unrestricted visiting rights because of the well documented risk that they then become overstayers, illegal immigrants etc as the standard of living in NZ is much higher than those countries.
  • So Chinese citizens need to get a visa to come here.  To get a visa they need to provide the following:
    • Proof of good health
    • Proof of good character
    • A proper purpose for visiting
    • Proof they plan to leave
    • Proof of funds to cover stay in NZ ($1,000/mth), and departure
    • Not have a serious criminal record
  • The application form for a visa is 16 pages long. A China Southern Airlines frequent flyer still has to fill in the entire 16 page form.
  • As I understand it, the only “variation” is that their status with China Southern Airlines is taken as proof of sufficient funds rather than have to provide certified copies of bank statements, letters of credit etc. Now considering that you have to have flown around the world at least twice in the last year to get frequent flyer status, then it is not a bad assumption that they have funds in excess of $1,000 a month!
  • That’s it. That’s what this is all about. A decision that proof you have flown twice around the world recently is a good proxy for you have sufficient funds to cover your expenses while in NZ.

So, an absolute beatup. And also consider that if you are visiting from say Mexico or Taiwan you don’t even need proof of funds, as we assume all citizens of those countries have sufficient funds to be allowed to visit NZ.

As I understand it, the initial concern by someone in DIA was based on thinking there was going to be a general visa waiver or the like. There is not. The ONLY thing agreed to here is that proof you fly so often to get frequent flyer status is acceptable proof that  you have funds in excess of $1,000 a month!

Sky City has not engaged with the Government at all on the South China Airlines arrangement, according to both them and the Government. They support it, as it makes it easier for high rollers (who are in no way exempt the good character test) to avoid the hassle of proving they have NZ$3,000 (when in fact they have several million dollars) each time they visit. These high rollers then spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in New Zealand, boosting the tourism sector and tax revenues.

Again, an absolute beat up of a story. What annoys me is that the media could have made clear in their stories that the so called “skipping border checks” is no such thing. They get treated no differently at the border. They still need a visa in advance. The only difference is what document they have to supply in advance with their visa application – proof of frequent flyer status rather than proof of funds. But that isn’t as sexy a story.

This is in fact a very smart arrangement. South China Airlines is the third largest in the world. It means they will promote NZ as a destination to their customers on our behalf. The Tourism Industry Association thinks it is great. It doesn’t mean a single person will be allowed to visit, who doesn’t fully meet the rules. It is simply saying that you can use a frequent flyer status as proof of funds, rather than a bank statement.

Comments (34)

Login to comment or vote