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Facilitating the

Movement of
Commonwealth Citizens
Presentation by Gary Dunn, DSG Corporate, Commonwealth Secretariat
13 December 2016 DRAFT #2

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Presentation outline
• Background
• Work of the Working Group
• CHOGM 2015 – Proposal and Mandate

• Lessons learned
• Commonwealth Secretariat's initiatives
• Member countries’ initiatives

• Next Steps

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Background
• Eminent Persons Group recommendation to CHOGM 2011
• Rec 101 – Report to next CHOGM on ways to improve movement of Commonwealth Citizens

• Ramphal Institute commissioned to examine the issue for CHOGM 2013
• Little prospect of a ‘borderless Commonwealth’
• Scope for visa reform on specific, pilot, bilateral and multilateral basis
• Recommend a Working Group to carry forward

• CHOGM 2013 directive to Secretariat to establish a Working Group

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Working Group on the Movement of Commonwealth Citizens
• Secretariat’s role under MOU:
• Facilitating and promoting consultations on matters of common concern
• Remains careful not to trespass on the independence and sovereignty of the member state

• Principles followed in discussions at Working Group:
• Consistency with national policies, practices and laws developed over many years
• Proposals would not propose an obligation on member states to implement any provision that
would run counter to or are otherwise not compatible with any of their existing policies, laws
or international agreements

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Working Group on the Movement of Commonwealth Citizens
• Working Group of the Board of Governors established in 2014
• Met 6 times to prepare proposal for CHOGM 2015
• Representatives from a total of 33 countries participated in one or more
meetings
• Met twice post CHOGM 2015

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CHOGM 2015 - Commonwealth Advantage Proposal
• Proposed possible measures member governments could consider to ease the
Movement of Commonwealth citizens
• Opportunity to leverage economic potential and networking power:
• Trade among Commonwealth countries grown by 10% per year in recent years
• Trade expected to reach $1Trillion by 2020
• Growth in regional arrangements Commonwealth countries participate in

• Provided a broad philosophy for countries to then decide how they would
implement as well as identifying areas for the Secretariat to take lead

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CHOGM 2015 – Commonwealth Advantage Proposal
• Proposed measures would benefit a wide group of Commonwealth citizens including:
• Business travellers – longer term and low cost visas
• Ministers and Officials attending and supporting Commonwealth meetings – faster
Commonwealth visa processes
• Officials and Representatives from accredited Commonwealth organisations – flexibility to
move through the Commonwealth
• Senior Officials and Persons of Note – additional consideration for requests for specific
Commonwealth purposes (sporting competition, academic events, entertainment concerts
and festivals
• Experts managing and responding to natural disasters in Commonwealth states – preaccreditation and long duration visas

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CHOGM 2015 - Mandate
“Heads recalled the importance to the people of the Commonwealth of easier
movement between member states of the Commonwealth for legitimate and
temporary reasons in order to benefit from strong economic, official and cultural
cooperation.
Heads noted the proposal for a ‘Commonwealth Advantage’ under which all
member governments would consider further possible measure to enhance the
scope for Commonwealth citizens to access each others’ countries more easily
and for longer than is currently possible, and for benefits therein where they do
not conflict with national legislation and international obligations regulating visa
policies.

They noted the efforts made to date by the working group in this regard and
requested a further progress report at their next meeting.”

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Lessons Learned
• Different interpretations of what Movement of Commonwealth Citizens meant
• Lack of understanding as to what each country did in this area
• Highlighted deeply held concerns about changes as it dealt with a country’s
sovereignty
• Different perspectives -- diplomats and immigration officials
• Different visa systems used across the Commonwealth
• Obligations under other agreements

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Commonwealth Secretariat's initiatives
• Focus on areas we are responsible for
• Desk top review of visa requirements for Commonwealth meetings
• Briefs on visa processes – Australia, South Africa, UK

• August 2016 – established visa application guidelines for Secretariat
• Apply early, provide as much detail as possible

• Pilot project – Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meetings – Sept in Samoa
• Transit Countries (Australia, NZ, South Africa) officially advised of the meeting and the need for transit
visas by letter from the Secretariat
• Issues arose for some participants directly related to insufficient lead time for visas

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Member Countries’ Initiatives
• Members to consider benefits of Commonwealth Advantage and apply in their own
context
• India – e-tourist Visa, temporary landing permit schemes
• SmartGate technology
• VIP/Conference consular network
• Bilateral agreements
• South Africa and Nigeria
• South Africa and the Commonwealth Secretariat for multiple visa entries for Secretariat staff

• Members of regional initiatives to improve movement
• CARICOM
• Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card
• Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) Card

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Next steps
• Member countries invited to advise of their own initiatives to improve
movement of Commonwealth Citizens
• Improve practices for preparing participants for Commonwealth meetings

• Secretariat and the Working Group to prepare progress report for heads of
Government for CHOGM 2018