After the first The Lord of The Rings film came out, the tourism industry in New Zealand received a huge boost. Since then, the increasing number of tourists visiting Aotearoa annually has reflected the growth in popularity of these islands as a mainstream travel destination. People from all over the world come to NZ for various reasons – some to road trip with the family, others to hike one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and a few to simply admire and photograph the picturesque landscape. But other than a wish to get to know the country and the culture, there is something else every visitor traveling to New Zealand has in common: a subjectivity to immigration rules.
In order to find out whether or not you need a visa to visit New Zealand, you must first stipulate the purpose of your trip. Is it a 3-week holiday or a week-long business trip? Are you planning to enroll on a long-term course or just stopping over on your way to another destination? Once you are clear of the motives behind your coming to New Zealand you can look further into the entry requirements for your respective type of visa.
Prerequisites for any foreigner traveling to New Zealand
Regardless of which visa you are eligible to, there are a series of prerequisites every foreign traveler must keep in mind before departing for New Zealand. The first thing is to check that your passport is currently valid (meaning that it hasn’t been invalidated by the issuing body or reported stolen) and will remain so for at least 1 month from the date you leave New Zealand. In case your country doesn’t have a diplomatic representation (consulate or embassy) in NZ, your passport’s expiry date must be at least three months after your departure from New Zealand. Finally, should you need a visa to enter New Zealand, it is important to make sure that you have the correct type of travel authorization and all the documentation required to fulfill migratory demands.
During your flight to New Zealand, you will be handed and asked to fill a passenger arrival card so as to provide Customs Passport Control with enough information about your travels to determine whether or not you are eligible to enter the country. Once you have gone through immigration and claimed your luggage, you will carry on to customs and undergo a biosecurity check. Compared to most countries, New Zealand has strict regulations on what you are allowed to bring into the country. This means that items such as plants, animal products, food and outdoor gear must be declared and biosecurity agents may ask to check and/or scan your luggage so as to help identify whether these pose a threat to the local flora and fauna. There are various items that are either prohibited, restricted or declarable, so it is advisable to take a look at it prior to departing and avoid potential fines. Likewise, for visiting travelers over the age of 17 who are entitled to bring in a certain amount of alcohol, tobacco and cigarettes duty-free, the New Zealand Customs website provides detailed information on concessions.
Understanding different New Zealand visas
The four main categories of visa for New Zealand are Work, Study, Transit, and Visitors. Which visa you should apply for will depend on the purpose of your trip to NZ, involve a different application process, and require specific documentation.
Work Visa: For any foreign passport holder thinking of either working or resettling to New Zealand, a work visa will be required. Work permits for NZ are often granted on the basis that you have been offered a job by a local employer and that he/she is willing to act as a sponsor and provide the necessary documents for your application. It is important to keep up to date with job openings and familiarise yourself with how to apply for an NZ work visa.
Study Visa: If you are a foreign national intending to enrol on a long-term (more than three months) course, training or university in New Zealand, you will have to apply for an NZ Student Visa. Requirements and visa options will vary according to your nationality and the type of course you seek and you will have to meet different criteria depending on the duration of the visa.
Transit Visa: Many international flights stopover in Australia on their way to New Zealand. So if you don’t hold a residence permit or a valid Australian visa, be sure to check whether you will have to apply for a specific authorization to transit through. The same is the case for travelers stopping in New Zealand on their way to a third destination. Unless your country is part of a particular diplomatic agreement, you may need an NZ transit visa.
Traveling to New Zealand for Tourism
The majority of foreign travelers coming into New Zealand do so with the purpose of tourism, occasionally to visit friends and family or enroll in short-term courses. Should the person’s travel intentions be one of the aforementioned, he/she must first check whether their country is in the list of visa-exempt nations. If the country is not listed under the NZ visa-free scheme, it will be necessary to apply for a Visitor Visa before entering New Zealand.
Applying for a New Zealand Visitor Visa can be done by completing an online application according to your citizenship. As part of the application process, you will have to attach a series of travel documents – valid passport, travel itinerary – and respond to the immigration-related questions as accurately as possible. In addition, the government of NZ will require that each applicant provides bank statements showing enough fund to support everyone included in the application for the length of their stay in the country. In most cases, once you have successfully submitted your application and paid the visa processing fees, a confirmation will be sent to you by email.
In case your country isn’t part of the NZ visa-waiver agreement you will need the following documents to apply for a New Zealand visitor visa:
Your passport information page (signature included) scanned in high-resolution color.
A digital, passport-standard photograph
The address of where you will reside while in New Zealand.
A summary of your plans during your trip to NZ, including the reasons behind your visit, travel itinerary, and any other relevant information about your trip.
Documents and/or letters showing that you have reasons to return to your home country (work or study commitments, financial ties, etc.) which match the length of your stay in New Zealand.
A comprehensive employment list or CV.
An electronic means of payment – PayPal account, Credit Card or Debit Card.
On top of these requirements, there are a handful of important instructions and conditions concerning the application for a tourist visa to New Zealand.
The validity of an NZ visitor visa ends 18 months after the date it was issued.
You are not allowed to stay in New Zealand territory for longer than 9 months under a visitor visa.
The applicant must show proof of having an onward ticket dated to leave New Zealand prior to visa expiry.
You are only allowed to enroll on short-term courses (no longer than 3 months) with a tourist visa.
An NZ visitor visa shall only be granted to applicants who can provide enough evidence of their intention to remain in the country as tourists and leave before their visa expires.
Work is not permitted under an NZ visitor visa. Should you wish to seek or accept employment, make sure to apply for a designated work permit.
Applicants will be required to prove that they have enough funds (in the form of bank statements, credit cards, travelers’ cheque, cash, etc.) to finance their entire trip in New Zealand.
Your passport remains valid for a period of at least 3 months after your scheduled departure date from New Zealand.
New Zealand visa-waiver countries
There are currently 60 countries in the visa-exempt list when traveling to New Zealand for touristic purposes with plans to spend 3 months or less (6 months or less in the case of British nationals):
Estonia (citizens only)
Hong Kong (residents with HKSAR or British National (Overseas) passports only)
Latvia (citizens only)
Lithuania (citizens only)
Macau (Macau Special Administrative Region passports only)
Portugal (permanent residents of Portugal)
Taiwan (permanent residents only)
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom (must be a permanent resident of the United Kingdom)
United States of America (includes USA nationals)
New visa policies for travelers from visa-waiver countries
After its announcement in 2018, new immigration policy for travelers from visa-waiver countries will be implemented starting in October 2019. The NZ eTA or Electronic Travel Authority will be a fully online process for any foreigner coming to New Zealand on tourism, granting them the right to travel, visit family and friends, and take short-term courses for no longer than 3 months. Together with the eTA, the Government of New Zealand will also bring forth an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL). Hence, from the 1st of October 2019 onward, current visa-exempt nationals will have to submit an eTA application and pay the respective IVL fees before boarding a carrier on the way to New Zealand.
Some of the key objectives of the NZeTA are:
better control and manage the influx of travelers into New Zealand to avoid immigration-related issues, and
assist in speeding up passport control and border security checks without compromising accuracy.
The NZ IVL, on the other hand, comes as a means for foreign travelers to support the development of tourism infrastructure and nature conservation initiatives which they will enjoy while in New Zealand.
The prerequisites for applying for an NZ eTA are as follows:
the applicant must be traveling either with the purpose of visiting or transiting through New Zealand
he/she must bear a passport from one of the listed countries which are exempt from an NZ tourist visa
transiting through Auckland International Airport with a valid passport from one of the transit visa-exempt countries on the way to another destination
any holder of permanent residency in Australia
If any of these apply to you, there is no need to request an NZ eTA to visit New Zealand:
need to apply for a Visitors Visa to travel to NZ
already in possession of a valid Work/Study/Tourist visa for New Zealand
a citizen of New Zealand traveling either on a valid NZ passport or a permanent resident card
an Australian passport holder
It is important to note that anyone applying for a New Zealand eTA should do so as before the trip as possible since it may take the system up to 72 hours to process the application. Should a traveler arrive for check-in without a valid NZ eTA, the carrier has the right to refuse to board. In some cases, it may be possible to submit an eTA application at the time of check-in, but this increases the chances of having it refused or not accepted in time for boarding.
There are also processing fees to pay for the NZ eTA, which will vary according to the channel you use for submitting your application. The IVL will be charged per person, in the same transaction as the eTA. Applicants will be able to pay the fees with bank cards (Debit or Credit) and/or via PayPal.
Both the Electronic Travel Authority and the IVL will be valid for up to 2 years and allow multiple entries to New Zealand. The pre-registration process for the NZ eTA opens in July 2019, and from October 2019 every eligible traveler will be asked to bear a valid eTA prior to departing for New Zealand.