The clarification follows publication in CINews yesterday of a story about Marc Pearce, a US citizen who has lived on Aitutaki for the last 11 years.
Samuela says visitors to the Cook Islands are issued 31-day visitor permits when they arrive in the Cook Islands, this includes US citizens.
“This can be extended up to three months in the first instance and then another three months upon application to Immigration.”
The difference now is there are a number of criteria that must be met as part of the additional three-month application, says Samuela.
“This includes the determination as to whether a person is a genuine bona-fide visitor, and that they have sufficient funds to support themselves whilst in the Cook Islands for that period of time - and in some cases, that health requirements are met.”
The change will make it more difficult for visitors like Pearce to stay in the Cook Islands for long periods at a time.
Says Samuela: “The definition of a bona-fide visitor under the Entry, Residence and Departures Act means any person who enters the Cook Islands solely for the purpose of holidaying or recreation, and (who) does not practice any profession, or occupation, business, trade or other commercial enterprise.”
Following the changes, Pearce says he will have to re-think his future on the island.
To get around restrictions he had previously been re-entering the country every six months, but says it will be to “exhausting” to do this every three months.
CINews Virtues columnist Linda Kavelin-Popov and husband Dr Dan Popov are leaving Aitutaki this week, as they say the new requirement is unsustainable for older couples.
Kavelin-Popov says it is very upsetting they are having to leave the Cook Islands, as they are saying goodbye to a local family whose children they consider their adopted “grandchildren”.
Meanwhile, there have been no changes to the New Zealand retirement provisions, which allow New Zealand passport holders receiving the pension a maximum stay of 24 months.