3 May 2012

US may be willing to speed up travel requirements

6:19 am on 3 May 2012

US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has signalled the United States may be willing to speed up customs processes for frequent travellers from New Zealand.

Ms Napolitano is in New Zealand and met with Prime Minister John Key on Wednesday.

She has signed a joint statement with New Zealand to strengthen border security and combat trans-national crime and facilitate legitimate trade and travel.

At a media conference on Wednesday, Ms Napolitano said New Zealand and the US share an unwavering commitment to the security of the Pacific region.

"Our two nations may be oceans apart but we are both tied to the same global economy and the same international transportation networks and we must work together to protect them."

On Thursday, Ms Napolitano will be given a demonstration of New Zealand's SmartGate system that allows some travellers to self-process though passport control.

She said the intention is to see whether it matches up with the US equivalent with a view to the possibility of facilitating travel to the United States, particularly for frequent travellers to the country.

Customs Minister Maurice Williamson says the Government is keen to extend the use of SmartGate beyond New Zealand and Australia. He hopes New Zealand and the US can integrate their systems that fast-track customs processing.

Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Nathan Guy on Wednesday signed an agreement with Janet Napolitano to work together to combat people-trafficking in the Pacific.

Mr Guy says the New Zealand Government takes the issue very seriously.

"This is a challenge that we all face together. New Zealand is therefore very pleased to enter into practical arrangements to combat people-trafficking and assist our Pacific counterparts."

Mr Guy says New Zealand has an ongoing programme with Pacific governments to build their capacity in a number of areas, including immigration security.