PNG says it will hold off until March before making changes to visas on arrival for Australians to give those affected, mainly businessmen, time to adapt.
Papua New Guinea will delay implementing its decision to restrict visas on arrival for Australian citizens until March 1, with the change to affect those flying in on business.
From March 1 Australians hoping to get to PNG for business will have to apply at one of PNG’s overseas missions.
Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato said the decision to delay will allow time for missions Canberra, Cairns, Sydney and Brisbane to adapt to the influx of applications.
He said the plan would not apply to tourists.
“Tourists will be given visas on arrival,” he told Radio Australia on Wednesday.
“Those who are arriving in PNG on cruise ships, flying, or coming on boats to the different ports in PNG – tourists are exempt from this restriction.”
Asked whom the ban will apply to, he replied: “Anyone who is not a tourist.”
Australians have traditionally been able to apply for a 60-day visa on arrival because of the longstanding historic and commercial links between the two nations.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill requested reciprocal arrangements in 2013 for PNG citizens travelling to Australia.
Australia does not offer visas-on-arrival to any country.
“There’s so many of our people with interests in Australia in terms of family, in terms of business, in terms of friendships so it is important that this issue needs to be looked at,” Mr Pato said.
“It’s a very strong feeling in the cabinet … other countries are giving visas on arrival to Papua New Guinea which includes Israel, Singapore, Japan and now more than likely Indonesia – why shouldn’t Australia, who have a long-term, long-lasting relationship with this country and its people.”
Canberra has streamlined aspects of its visa process to suit PNG.
The advertised turnaround for a visa is now 10 days, down from 30.
It has also introduced a dedicated PNG line at Cairns and Brisbane airports, and introduced an online application process.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is expected to discuss the changes with the PNG government when she visits Port Moresby in February, Mr Pato said.