The Australian government announced it would be introducing a new visa aimed at hiring foreign crew members to help secure its borders.
The Migration Amendment (Maritime Crew) Act 2007, passed by the Australian Parliament on 10 May 2007, introduces the Maritime Crew visa "to improve Australia's border security and bring sea crew into line with visa arrangements for most other visitors to Australia", according to Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews.
"Traditionally sea crew have been viewed as 'people of the sea' and allowed to enter Australia as long as they meet certain documentary requirements," Andrews said.
"The Maritime Crew visa is an appropriate measure for this day and age as it will allow security checks to occur before crew are granted a visa to enter Australia.
"This visa strikes a balance between our national security interests and the demands of the shipping industry. It will allow the entry of genuine foreign sea crew and enable effective shipping operations while further strengthening Australia's border integrity."
An estimated 130,000 foreign crew travel to Australia each year by sea. An estimated 90 percent are from cargo ships, with the rest members of cruise ships.
The Maritime Crew visa is a joint effort between the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Australian Customs Service. It was announced in December of 2005 as part of a budget plan to improve Australian border security.
Applications for the new visa will be available from 01 July 2007, with a transition period in place for six months after, to allow the maritime industry and other seafarers to become accustomed to the new procedures.
From 01 January 2008, it will become mandatory for foreign sea crew traveling to Australia to hold Maritime Crew visas.
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