Croats welcome three months visa-free
The easing of travel restrictions for Croats visiting New Zealand is being welcomed by Auckland’s Croatian community.
This month marks the beginning of a visa-waiver scheme which allows Croatians to stay in New Zealand for up to three months visa-free.
While Kiwis can travel in Croatia visa-free for 90 days it hasn’t been reciprocal, with Croatians requiring a visitor’s visa for any length of stay up to nine months. Croatian Culture Society committee member Bozenka Mrkusich, 60, says she is grateful to the Government for the change.
Mrs Mrkusich moved to New Zealand from the coastal town of Makarska to escape communist rule in 1966 when she was 13 years old.
Her parents stayed in Croatia and it was always a rigmarole for them to visit, she says.
‘‘Up until the few weeks beforehand it was very uncertain if they would be allowed to come. We had to guarantee a lot of things and it was almost too hard in a way,’’ she says.
Katica Katich, 49, moved to New Zealand when she was 3 years old and says she’s happy there will be no more red tape involved when her family visits.
It would be a bonus if rules around work permits were relaxed too, she says.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says New Zealand has an important trade relationship with Croatia.
However Babich Wines managing director Joe Babich says the visa change doesn’t address Croatian job seekers.
His cousin Tina visited New Zealand for three months in December to work for the winery and it was difficult to obtain a temporary work permit.
‘‘I’m sure the families with close connections with Croatia will welcome the easing of restrictions but I doubt that it will have much effect on business or trade.’’
Making history: The Babich brothers in 1914 shortly after immigrating from Dalmatia. Josip Babich to the far right.
Croatian culture: Bozenka Mrkusich and Katica Katich are pleased family members will be able to visit New Zealand more freely.
Babich brother: Joe Babich, 72, took over the family business from his father Josip who immigrated to New Zealand from Dalmatia in 1910.