Croats wel­come three months visa-free

Central Leader - - NEWS -

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.

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