THE BAN on visas on arrival for Australians entering Papua New Guinea comes into effect on Saturday, making it harder for Australians to enter PNG now than for many other countries.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the ban is already having an impact, with some Australians facing missed flights into PNG because they hadn’t lodged their written visa applications early enough.
Australian passport holders entering PNG on or after Saturday are now required to apply for their visas in advance of their arrival, from the nearest PNG overseas mission or post, or from an Australian mission or post where there is no PNG representation. PNG has Australian missions in Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns.
The ban follows Australia’s refusal to grant reciprocal visa on arrival rights to PNG citizens.
PNG’s National Executive Council made the decision to stop issuing visas on arrival for Australians last December, but deferred its implementation until after the PNG/Australia Ministerial Forum in Canberra in December and Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop’s visit to Port Moresby earlier this month.
PNG’s Chief Migration Officer Mataio Raburo said in a public notice that Australians without a valid visa ‘would be repatriated on the next available flight’, which could be to Singapore.
In a fact sheet issued by the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, the Australian government said it does not have a visa on arrival system for any country.
It says the turnaround time for an online application is 10 working days and about 95% of visas are granted. Between June 2012, and June 2013, some 18,000 visas were granted to PNG citizens.
PNG has become the first country to have online visa applications for its citizens and ‘is now easier and quicker than ever before for PNG citizens to apply for a visa to enter Australia’.
Last month, a majority of respondents to a poll conducted by Business Advantage PNG said the ban would have an impact on their business.