Aussies crack down on Kiwis with convictions

Aussies crack down on Kiwis with convictions

Travelling to Australia is easy, right? Well, if you're a Kiwi with convictions, you might have a problem.

Kiwis with old convictions are becoming increasingly nervous about trans-Tasman travel, as Australia cracks down on its immigration laws. Technically an historic offence should not affect your ability to travel, but there is a different set of rules depending on what side of the ditch you are from.

Mark (not his real name) has a male-assaults-female charge from 19 years ago, which landed him a 15-month sentence and nine months behind bars.

Mark has been to Australia twice since then, but last August he was told he needed sentencing notes from 19 years ago. But documents are destroyed after 10 years.

Mark entered Australia and was taken to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, where he spent two days locked down.

"I've changed so much," he says. "I've even done some community patrol stuff. I've tried giving back as much as I can to the community now. I wish I could change stuff from the past but I can't."

Kiwis going to Australia who have had any sort of conviction – regardless of how minor or how long ago – are meant to disclose everything well before travel.

You send a consent form to let our police give the Australian consulate your full criminal record. If you're a red flag, you may then have to apply for a visa, which can take months.

But Australians coming here only have to flag if they've been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison over the past 10 years or if they've been sentenced to five years or more at any time.

It's a discrepancy and the trouble is the protocols can be confusing. 

So how serious does an offence have to be in order for you to declare it? Even the experts aren't quite sure.

"It's quite grey in that area," says House of Travel adviser Brent Thomas. "It doesn't set it out quite clearly, so I guess it comes down to what immigration decide along with the immigration department, and per the form everyone with a criminal conviction is meant to fill it out. Whether everyone does that is another thing."

The advice is, don't take the risk, or better yet don't break the law in the first place. But that doesn't help the thousands like Mark who wish they could leave their pasts completely behind.