A group of 20 Moroccan tourists are facing the loss of their New Zealand holiday and thousands of dollars in late cancellation fees if they don't make a 6000km journey to Dubai.
The group from Casablanca had booked the holiday in June, however they were only recently made aware that to be granted travel they would have to be physically present to register their passports at an INZ Visa Application Centre.
Unfortunately for the group, Moroccan law prohibits passports to be posted across borders. There are no INZ agents in the country. Nor are there any in the entire of North Africa.
Instead, all twenty of the tourists must physically travel to a New Zealand Immigration services office in the UAE, 6000km away without guarantee of onward travel.
NTB Travel Agents in Auckland who have been handling the groups' travel arrangements were shocked by the lack of flexibility and said it was completely unreasonable for their clients to take this "very expensive gamble."
"At this stage they do not have visas issued for New Zealand so they have to take a gamble that all will be ok, which is crazy," said David Hogan MD of NTB.
Hogan said he has been promoting New Zealand for 40 years and has never had such a problem.
In a statement to the Herald a spokesperson for INZ said the situation had arisen from the fact that "Moroccan passport holders aren't permitted to send or courier their passports across borders, nor can their passports be scanned in Morocco."
The spokesperson said that the application process requires Moroccan nationals to "present their passport at a Visa Application Centre (VAC)" and that the tourists should "allow time for their passports to be scanned en-route to New Zealand."
"Work is underway to ensure their travel and visa processing goes as smoothly as possible," said a spokesperson.
However, INZ could not comment on the likelihood that a visa would be granted or the time it would take to process applications after passports had been scanned.
With the intended 23 of September date of travel fast approaching, the group are faced with the prospect of late cancellation fees for accommodation or gambling on their New Zealand holiday and a lengthy stay in Dubai.
The INZ says they have been in touch with NTB Travel to discuss the requirements.