New Zealand Visa: complete guide updated for 2020

There are very many reasons to visit this mystical Southwestern Pacific Ocean country. Not least of which is the intrigue of New Zealand constituting not only two main landmasses but also some 600 smaller islands. Whether you travel for relaxation, business, thrills, discovery, culture, or curiosity, New Zealand has so much to offer. Nature and cities allure, with an interesting mix of ancient and contemporary cultures, all forming the New Zealand everyone loves to love. In this article we are going to show the visa possibilities for US travelers bound to New Zealand, answering the question: when do I need a New Zealand Visa?

New Zealand Visa Requirements

A tourist visa is not required to visit New Zealand in these situations:

  • citizens of a visa waiver country agreement with New Zealand, who may stay for up to three months;
  • New Zealand and Australian citizens or residents;
  • UK citizens and passport holders staying for up to six months.

If you don’t fall into these categories, you will need to apply for a traditional New Zealand Visitor Visa, that allows the holder to remain in New Zealand for up to nine months.

New Zealand Visa Requirements for US Citizens

US applicants must comply with the following New Zealand Visa requirements, before boarding a plane headed to NZ:

  • a passport that is valid for three months beyond the planned date of departure from New Zealand;
  • valid passport with at least one blank page, required for entry stamp;
  • New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA);
  • Completed Border Cash Report for bringing cash of NZD$10,000 or more of any foreign denomination into New Zealand. There are no currency restrictions for exiting New Zealand.

Do US citizens need a visa for New Zealand?

A New Zealand visa for US citizens is not a requirement for travel to New Zealand from the USA for visits of less than 90 days. The United States is among the countries that benefit from the visa waiver program. New Zealand introduced its Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA), effective from October 1st, 2019 for all such eligible countries. US passport holders and US nationals do now require the NZeTA to enter the country for stays no longer than 90 days.

Also, other passport holders of one of 60 eligible countries need no longer apply for the traditional tourist visa. From now on, they can apply for the NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) online for a visa to travel to New Zealand.

Please notice that NZeTA allows visits up to 3 months (UK citizens up to 6 months) and requires a valid passport from a visa waiver country.

How Long Can US Citizens Stay in New Zealand?

US citizens traveling with an NZeTA can stay in New Zealand for up to 3 months. This is the case when the purpose of the stay is tourism, short term business, and for medical purposes. On the other hand, a Visitor Visa allows for US citizens to stay for up to 9 months.

Americans in the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands are a self-governing region in free association with New Zealand. This way, the country does not require US citizen visitors to have an entry permit for stays no longer than 31 days. However, US citizens must have a passport that is valid for no less than six months beyond the arrival date in the Cook Islands.

Advice for US Citizens on Arrival in New Zealand

US Citizens will receive a Passenger Arrival Card during their flight to New Zealand. These Arrival Cards are also available in the NZ airport’s arrival area. You will need to complete the form before passing through Customs Passport Control.

Travelers over 12 years of age bearing biometric ordinary passports can make use of New Zealand Customs eGate service which fast-track Customs and Immigration checks.

American Citizens holding the NZeTA will be checked by a Customs Officer at the Port of Entry into New Zealand. Such personal items as laptops, hard drives, mobile phones, iPads, Android tablets, and digital cameras may be examined. In such a case, be prepared to enter applicable passwords as requested.

New Zealand’s strictly enforced biosecurity procedures prevent harmful pests and diseases from being introduced into the country. Goods deemed at risk include but are not limited to plants, fresh fruit, seeds, and honey. These must be either declared or disposed of using the amnesty bins marked for that purpose at air and seaports. Failure to comply is a finable offense.

International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL)

Visitors to New Zealand for tourism, short-term business, or certain student programs will have to pay the new International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy or simply IVL. This levy was implemented with effect from July 1st, 2019.

Instead, passengers passing through New Zealand on a transit visa are not required to pay the levy. Assessment is made upon application for NZeTA or NZ visa.

Types of New Zealand Visas

A New Zealand visa exists for just about any reason for travel to the country. How to apply for a New Zealand visa also depends on the type of visa required. The type of New Zealand Visa required depends on:

  • reason for the visit;
  • length of stay;
  • country of the passport held.

Travelers are required to hold either an NZeTA, New Zealand tourist visa, business visa for New Zealand, or a New Zealand visitor visa to enter New Zealand on a foreign passport. It is not necessary to have both an NZeTA and an alternative visa.

A traditional New Zealand Visitor Visa is required in any of the following situations:

  • if the traveler citizenship is not from a visa-waiver country or territory;
  • for a stay longer than 3 months (or 6 months for UK passport holders);
  • if the traveler has health problems posing a potential danger to public health or an expense to national health services;
  • existence of criminal a record: served time in prison, been deported from a country or getting involved at any time in terrorist or criminal groups.

New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA)

New Zealand implemented the Electronic Travel Authority with effect from October 1st, 2019. All travelers holding passports from any of the eligible 60 visa waiver countries, including US citizens, must have the NZeTA.

This also includes cruise ship passengers, and all flight passengers, whether traveling to or transiting through the country. New Zealand’s eTA is valid for up to two years, for multiple entries. Applications for the NZeTA can only be made online and should be processed in under 72 hours. Therefore, travelers should request NZeTA with enough previous time before boarding.

Above all, denied applications do not necessarily mean travel to New Zealand is impossible. If that should happen, an application for a traditional visa can be made in person at an NZ Consulate or Embassy.

Visitor Visa

The NZ visitor visa allows you to enter New Zealand for up to 9 months. A valid reason for entry must apply, though. Applicants can include partners and dependent children up to the age of 19 in their visa application. By the way, valid reasons for entry are:

  • tourism;
  • to visit family and friends;
  • enjoy amateur sports or adventure pursuits;
  • to study a short course for up to 3 months.

Besides that, a holder of a New Zealand Visitor Visa might have to prove:

  • having sufficient funds for the duration of the stay;
  • to be a genuine tourist or visitor with the full intention of leaving New Zealand before the visa expires;
  • to rely on an acceptable sponsor if you are not supporting yourself during your stay.

Group Visitor Visa

Groups tripping to New Zealand for the same purpose with the same travel arrangements qualify for this NZ visa. Two points must be observed:

  • all group travelers enter and leave the country together;
  • a ‘Group Visa Application’ must be completed by the group leader as well as a ‘Visitor Visa Application’ by the individual group members.

This NZ visitor visa is valid for one month and after this period the visa holder must return home.

Business Visitor Visa

This NZ visitor visa is specifically for travel to New Zealand for business reasons for a stay of no more than 3 months in any one year. New Zealand visa requirements for US citizens and other applicants are:

  • proof of being a genuine business visitor who intends to leave New Zealand after the visit;
  • having either sufficient funds to live on in New Zealand or employer’s financial support;
  • possessing a ticket to depart from New Zealand or adequate sponsorship for costs of onward travel.

Visiting Media Visitor Visa

Participants in New Zealand Tourism Board’s Visiting Media Programme or the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise must apply for this visa to conduct work in New Zealand associated with the Visiting Media Programme. Applicants can include a partner, and dependent children under the age of 19 and under. If this is your case, you will need to:

  • present a letter of introduction from the New Zealand Tourism Board or New Zealand Trade and Enterprise;
  • have sufficient funds for subsistence for the duration of the stay in New Zealand or have a sponsor;
  • hold a ticket to depart from New Zealand or sufficient funds to purchase a ticket.

This visa to New Zealand allows entry for a month. Applicants willing to stay for longer than a month must apply for a work visa.

Academic Visitor Visa

Academics wanting to visit New Zealand for participation in educational activities such as teaching, research, or professional management can apply for this visa category. They will also need to:

  • present a letter of invitation from the tertiary education institution at which work will be conducted in New Zealand;
  • sufficient funds for the duration of the stay in the country or an acceptable sponsor;
  • hold a ticket to leave New Zealand or a sponsorship for the costs of onward travel.

The visa is valid for up to 3 months, and after that, the visa holder must return home.

Arts and Music Festival Visitor Visa

Performers and support crew visiting New Zealand for participation in approved arts or music festival can apply for this visa, providing:

  • a letter of invitation from the event organizers;
  • proof of sufficient funds for self-support for the duration of the stay, as well as for all persons in the application;
  • a ticket to depart from New Zealand or proof of sufficient funds to buy a ticket.

This particular visa to New Zealand is valid for up to 3 months. This New Zealand visa application can include a partner and dependent children 19 years and younger.

Short-term Entertainment Act Visitor Visa

Performers and their immediate support crew participating in a short-term live entertainment act in New Zealand performed by an authorized promoter on the Approved Promoters List can apply for this visa. Necessary documentation must be provided:

  • the visit to New Zealand is for participation in a short-term live entertainment act promoted by an approved promoter;
  • the proof is given of sufficient funds to support all the persons included in the New Zealand visa application;
  • a ticket or sufficient funds to purchase a ticket to depart from New Zealand is proven.

The visa is valid for a stay of up to 3 months. The visa application may include a partner and dependent children 19 years and younger.

Sports Events Visitor Visa

This visa to travel to New Zealand covers visits for a sports event or tour. Applicants must be either a sports person, support staff, match or tournament official, or working in associated media or broadcasting. In addition, they need to:

  • prove their presence as support staff or match or tournament official is essential for the success of the sports event, tour or tournament;
  • show their accreditation by the New Zealand organizing committee or international governing body of the event as media or broadcasting personnel;
  • have sufficient funds to self-support and all persons included in the New Zealand visa application.

The visa is valid for a stay of up to 3 months after which holder may return home or travel may continue outside of New Zealand.

Occupational Registration Visitor Visa

New Zealand visa applications can be made by those intending to get New Zealand occupational registration. Besides, those already in New Zealand who have made an application for residence but require additional time to secure occupational registration can apply. Applicants must:

  • provide written confirmation of eligibility from the relevant registration body;
  • complete all enrolment requirements;
  • have sufficient funds to live on during the stay, or an acceptable sponsor;
  • hold a ticket or enough funds to buy a ticket to depart New Zealand.

The visa is valid for up to 3 months to travel to or remain in New Zealand to get New Zealand occupational registration.

Working Holiday Visa

Working holiday visa permits travel and working in New Zealand for up to 12 months. The Working Visa is available to the young citizens of selected countries, typically between the ages of 18 and 30. The age limit rises to 35 for certain nationalities.

Eligible youngsters considering working in New Zealand for a few years or settling in the country permanently must hold either a resident or a work visa. Notice that eligibility for either of these visas requires the applicant to be employed in New Zealand.

In addition, Working Visa has two requirements:

  • a return ticket or sufficient funds to cover a return ticket;
  • the main reason for visiting New Zealand must be vacations and working in it secondary.

Check also our brand new guide about New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

Transit Visa

Travelers from visa waiver countries in transit through Auckland International Airport don’t need an NZ Visa. Similarly, the same applies to other international airports in NZ.

Therefore, these travelers must make an application for an NZeTA before checking-in. Travelers connecting to New Zealand from an Australian airport must make certain they do not require an Australian visa before they board on the flight.

Transit Visa Waiver Countries are available on this page.

New Zealand Medical Treatment Visitor Visa

Travelers willing to visit New Zealand for the purpose of medical consultations or treatment must first make an application for an NZ Medical Treatment Visitor Visa. These categories of applicants must visit the New Zealand embassy or consulate in their country of residence. They also need to provide all necessary documentation and complete the required forms.

New Zealand Student Visa

A Student Visa is a requirement for anyone wanting to study in New Zealand for longer than 3 months. As a matter of fact, students can have conditional part-time employment during their student period. Student visa holders who wish to stay in New Zealand and work after they have completed their studies will need to apply for the appropriate visa to do so.

In such cases, a number of options are available to interested students:

  • Visitor visa
  • Fee-paying student visa
  • Exchange student visa
  • Foreign government-supported student visa
  • Occupational registration visitor visa

Visas to Join Family Members in New Zealand

Various visa options are available to foreign citizens wanting to join family members in New Zealand. Factors influencing the visa type include the relationship between these family members and the applicant’s nationality.

Partners

The options for one of the partners to join the other partner already resident in New Zealand are:

  • Culturally arranged marriage visitor visa
  • Partner of a New Zealander work, resident or visitor visa
  • Permanent resident visa
  • Visa waiver visitor visa
  • Partner of a student visitor or work visa
  • Partner of an NZ scholarship student work visa
  • Visitor visa
  • Partner of a worker visitor or work visa
  • Partner of military visitor visa

Children

Children reaching their parents in New Zealand can apply for one of these visa categories:

  • Adoption pre-citizenship visitor visa
  • Adoption visitor visa
  • Child of a New Zealander visitor visa
  • Child of a worker, student or military visitor visa
  • Dependent child resident or student visa
  • Intercountry adoption resident visa
  • Refugee family support resident visa
  • Visa waiver visitor visa
  • Visitor visa

Parents

Parents joining their offsprings in New Zealand can select the best option of the following visa types:

  • Guardian of a student visitor visa
  • Grandparent and parent visitor visa
  • Parent resident visa
  • Refugee family support resident visa
  • Visa waiver visitor visa
  • Visitor visa

Family member

If you will join a family member already in NZ, these are the options available for you:

  • Parent and grandparent visitor visa
  • Refugee family support resident visa
  • Visa waiver visitor visa
  • Visitor visa

New Zealand Visas for US citizens: conclusion

New Zealand visas for US citizens are many and varied. A comprehensive range of visa types is available to cover any situation you might need. It all depends on what is the purpose of your travel. Once you meet the necessary visa requirements, applying and receiving the visa can be quick and easy.

The land of the World Champion All Black Rugby Team, home to the Hobbits, location of the Lord of the Rings fantasy, and ancient hunting grounds of the Maori people has a world within its borders to offer any visitor. No matter the intention behind the visit, spending time in New Zealand is definitely worth the procedure.