The Prime Minister, Minister for Tourism and Minister for Immigration, the Honourable Henry Puna, announced today that the requirement for people departing the Cook Islands to complete a departure form would cease from 1 August 2015.   

The Prime Minister indicated that he had been approached in recent months by representatives of the tourism industry to review the process of requiring international passengers leaving the Cook Islands having to fill out a departure card.

“We have balanced our need to collect information on arrival and departures and the corresponding bureaucracy which has become redundant with the onset of technology.  The completion of a departure card, whilst appropriate many years ago to ensure the credibility of our immigration system, has become a needless process because of our new system which does the work for us.  I am particularly happy with the way the different agencies got together, recognised that an improvement was need, and worked through this issue to come up with a solution, including MFEM, MFAI, FSC and Tourism.”

From 1 August anyone leaving the Cook Islands will only have to check in and follow the normal security checks before immigration processing.  Arrival cards will still need to be completed.

Ms Myra Patai, the acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, pointed out that all immigration data is captured electronically through the border management system. “For some years now we have captured this information electronically, and the presentation of a passport to an immigration officer, is the equivalent of making a declaration.”    

The Chief Statistician, Taggy Tangimetua outlined that MFEM no longer inputs the details from the cards into the statistical system as the information is extracted from the border management system.  “A number of years ago, our officers would essentially re-input all the information from both the departure and arrival cards, now we import the information electronically into our statistical database which allows my staff to do higher value work.”  

Halatoa Fua, the CEO of the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation emphasised the need to continually review government processes and to appreciate what adds value and what does not.  “We are in a competitive environment, anything we can do that can improve the visitor experience without compromising our genuine regulatory requirements is welcome.”    

Head of the FIU, Mr Bob Williams outlined that there is still a requirement for departing passengers to declare carriage of any monies or financial instruments with a value of NZD10,000 or greater, or its foreign equivalent, and that a sign have been placed in the vicinity of the departure area which will clearly outline the responsibility of passengers to make any such declaration to a customs  officer.

The Prime Minister outlined his Government’s continued efforts to reform areas which will improve the tourist experience. “Over the previous four years we have included the departure tax in the ticket, removed the need for international visitors to acquire a driver’s licence, and now we will remove the departure card.  These are little things but when we add them together we see that the cumulative impact is a large one.”