Tonga Immigration Visitor Clarification

Many cruisers will remember that last year there was a problem extending visas past 3 or 4 months in Tonga. Actually it was more of a problem. It was impossible! I have been working with NZs Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade since then to try and clarify the situation this cruising season. I have received the following letter which is published unaltered. You will read that the Tongan authorities say that the situation is unchanged. Well, it is back to what it was before 2017 so i suppose you could say that. Anyway it would appear cruisers will not have the same problem this year. I suspect there has been a change in one of the people responsible for visa extensions. please note that we need to abide by the rules of the countries we visit. Do not even think of working in countries if you have a a visitors visa. Patricia Gulf Harbour Radio


Dear Patricia,

We have made contact with the Immigration Division of Tonga’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss visa duration and extensions for visiting yachties.

Tonga Immigration confirmed that New Zealand yachties can get a one month visitor’s visa on arrival, plus up to five month’s extension of the visitor’s visa. There has been no change in the policy and the maximum stay is still six months. Visitors wanting to extend their visitor’s visa are required to submit a bank statement to show they have the means to support themselves. Visa extensions can be applied from Nuku’alofa or Vava’u.

Tonga Immigration stressed that yachties coming to Tonga could not work under the table on a visitor’s visa. This included working for accommodation or tourist providers as hospitality staff, cooks, tour guides or skippers in exchange for food and accommodation. People wanting to work (including in exchange for board) needed to apply for a Short Term Employment Visa before arrival in Tonga.

A Government Taskforce has been checking that people had the correct visa and that they were not combining work and pleasure. When caught working, people had to pay an adjustment fee to change their visa category from Visitor’s Visa to Short Term Employment Visa. The fee for changing the visa category was T$5,000 when applied for in Tonga. Yachties could apply for a Short Term Employment Visa at the Tongan Consulate in Auckland at a cost of T$230 for six months. A Visitor’s Visa costs T$69 per month.

Any further questions on visas can be sent to

I hope that this information is helpful and I wish you the best for this season,

Kind regards,

Ruth Pehbu-Hubscher

Policy Officer – Tonga, Tuvalu

Pacific and Development Group
New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade | Manatū Aorere

Well the above sounds good but in Tonga the department for Customs has their own ideas, that differ significantly from those of their sister department, Immigration. I have written again to the above email, to try and clarify the situation for 2018. As yet, 25 April, I have not had a reply!