Work Permits And The Photographer

Stick forwarded this link and thought it might be worth talking about.  I read this article carefully and then did some research and discovered this subject is being raised in more countries than New Zealand.  Frankly it disturbs me.


The Why

It's not unusual during touch economic times for local and state governments to enact laws of protectionism, often pushed through by your political representative urged on my the competing businesses.

The scenario is easy to understand.  Local New Zealand photographers notice that tourists to New Zealand, people who are visiting New Zealand in this case to become married, are often bringing their own photographers with them from their home countries.


Discovery of Fact

I've traveled to other countries for regular customers because they knew and were comfortable with my work and didn't want the hassle or uncertainty of a local hire, even if it costs them a great deal more vs. a local hire.  The truth is I've flown to many countries on a tourist visa with my primary purpose not being tourism, but to perform photographic services for clients.


The Requirements

Now, more and more, countries are demanding you apply and pay for a work permit in such cases.  Work permits almost always take much longer and are more costly, not to mention they're uncertain.  You never know if you'll get one or not.  Then there are the "requirements" which can range from simple things like health and accident insurance, to approved legal contracts, and sometimes even the need to hire so many locals.

A simple 2-3 days job has now turned into a major production and the overhead costs go through the roof.  This is what the local photographers want. They want to make it so difficult and expensive if not impossible, thereby forcing the party needing photographic services to use local services.


Does This Law Concern More Than Photographers?

If you're thinking it's okay to do this to photographers you should know that such laws are usually not profession specific.  Such laws will probably require anyone entering the country for the primary purpose of working.. to meet the same requirements.

Anyone even remotely familiar with the business world knows a good sized percentage of passengers on every plane landing in the international airports are there for business.  They're entering the country on tourist visa's for small periods of time to perform a duty or service related to their work.  Bankers, journalists, salespeople, Information Technology professionals, medical  workers, aid workers, lobbyists for major corporations, CEO's, board members, and as you can quickly see the list is very long and never ending.

If you require all these people to obtain 'work permits' in advance of travel you'll find many of these professionals not bothering and taking their business elsewhere.  They'll take their business to a more business friendly country.


Unintended Consequences

Here's the deal.  In effect you have a group representing the interest of one profession, in this case the local photography union or whatever their rep group is.  They lobby their politician and push through a law requiring work permits.  These laws very rarely target a single profession, instead they blanket cover anyone who meets a broad definition of purpose and time in country.  It sounds like the local photographers won round one.  They've succeeded in keeping out those pesky Asian competitors.

However, now those charged with enforcing the laws find a very sizeable number of business professionals on every arriving flight also need a work permit.  The administrative costs become enormous, the political fallout at diplomatic levels extreme, and if the law stays then their economy takes major hits as people ly to other countries to do their business instead of yours.


How Can We Prevent This?

We're supposed to be able to count on our local politicians for common sense.  And sometimes commonsense includes telling certain self-interest groups no.

I've known several photographers who have come to Thailand on tourist visas to perform professional duties.  Payment for these services takes place outside of Thailand.  They fly in, do their job, and fly out.  No one is the wiser.  No one at immigration is checking their bags for cameras.  If they can do the job within the time constraints of a tourist visa and be responsible for their own medical and other insurances then there are no problems.

I've know many more, myself included, who fly into other countries to shoot weddings, a factory, cover an event, or as a journalist.  And these are just photographers.  It's unfathomable how many are here for other types of business.


We Also Buy Goods and Services

And lets not forget that while we're here/there working, we're contributing to the economy.  Hotels, rental cars, local talent hires, supplies, equipment, and more. Or that the reason you're there is because you speak your clients language or know their business specifics.



I think this new law in New Zealand is bad for everyone involved, other than a handful of local photographers who have no idea how badly they're hurting their country.  This new law is ill conceived and is sure to cause more problems every day it's enforced.

There is much to consider with this law and how it might affect every business traveler.  The more I think about it, the more I can think of that exposes the flaws and pitfalls.  I encourage you to resist passing such laws.  Sure, if a photographer is coming to your country to work for a significant period of time they should be subject to the same laws any other foreign worker is subjected to.  But if they're only there to work for a single day, or a few days, then ask yourself how many other professionals fall under the same law.

Until Next Time..