Do I Need A Visa To Visit New Zealand?

The tourism industry in New Zealand has been facing a real boom in recent years. Currently, people from all over the world come to NZ making the country mainstream among the world’s hottest destinations. Some come to a road trip with the family, others to hike one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, others to simply admire and photograph the picturesque landscape. Before a full immersion in Kiwi’s way of life, every visitor should look at its immigration rules. By the way, do you need an NZ Visa to visit the country?

In order to find the answer, 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 have the reasons clear, you can look further into the entry requirements for your respective type of NZ Visa. Let’s look at them!

General requirements to travel to New Zealand

Besides Visa requirements, every foreign traveler must keep in mind some general requirements before departing for New Zealand. The first thing is to check that your passport is currently valid. Make sure as well that your password will remain valid for at least 1 month from the date you leave New Zealand.

In case your country doesn’t have 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 immigration demands.

During your flight to New Zealand, you will be handed and asked to fill a passenger arrival card to provide customs and passport control with enough information about your travel. 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 can bring into the country.

This means that items such as plants, animal products, food, and outdoor gear must be declared. Biosecurity agents may ask to check and/or scan your luggage as well. There are various items that are either prohibited, restricted or declarable. This way, it is advisable to 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.

NZ Customs officer checking passenger's documents
New Zealand Customs officer

Understanding different New Zealand visas

The four main categories of visas for New Zealand are Work, Study, Transit, and Visitor. Which Visa you should apply for will depend on the purpose of your trip to NZ. That involves a different application process and requires 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 familiarize yourself with how to apply for an NZ work visa.

  • Study Visa: If you are a foreign national intending to enroll in a more than 90 days course, you will have to apply for an NZ Student Visa. Requirements and Visa options will vary according to your nationality and the kind of institution you are seeking for.

  • Transit Visa: If you will stop in a New Zealand airport on your way to a third destination, you may need an NZ transit visa.

If you need more information about New Zealand types of Visa, check our dedicated article to the subject clicking here.

Traveling to New Zealand for Tourism

Most of the foreigners come to New Zealand for tourism purpose. 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. United States is part of the visa-free countries. As part of the application process, you will have to input passport information, travel itinerary and respond to the immigration-related questions as accurately as possible. The process seems quite a lot with American ESTA one. 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 stay 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 showing that you have reasons to return to your home country: work or study commitments, financial ties, etc. They should 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.

NZ Visa general rules

On top of these previous 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 issue date;

  • Your stay in New Zealand with a Visitor Visa can’t last more than 9 months;
  • The applicant must show proof of having an onward ticket to leave New Zealand prior to visa expiry;

  • You are only allowed to enroll in short-term courses (no longer than 3 months) with a tourist visa;

  • An NZ Visitor Visa is granted to applicants who provide enough evidence of their intention to remain in the country as tourists and leave before their visa expires;

  • Work is forbidden under an NZ Visitor Visa. Should you wish to seek or accept employment, make sure to apply for a designated work permit;

  • Applicants need to show evidence to have enough funds to finance their entire stay 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

Currently, citizens of 60 countries are visa-exempt when traveling to New Zealand for tourism and no longer than 90 days.  In the case of British nationals, the allowance is 6 months. You can find the complete list here.

Visa policies for travelers from Visa-Waiver countries

The NZ eTA or Electronic Travel Authority is a fully online process for foreigners coming to New Zealand on tourism. It grants 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 also implemented an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL). Hence, 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.

NZeTA goals

Some of the key objectives of the NZeTA are:

  • better control and manage inbound travelers to avoid immigration or security-related issues;

  • assist in speeding up passport control and border security checks without compromising accuracy.

On the other hand, IVL provides funds for the development of tourism infrastructure and nature conservation.

Requirements to apply for an NZeTA

The following requirements must be observed to apply for an NZ eTA:

  • 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 Visitor Visa to travel to New Zealand;

  • 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.

Wrapping-up 

Notice that anyone applying for a New Zealand eTA should do it as soon as possible. Bear in mind that the application might take up to 72 hours to be processed. In most cases, it doesn’t happen, but it is possible that further documents will be required.

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. Consider that would increase the chances of having it refused or not accepted in time for boarding.

There are also processing fees to pay for the NZ eTA. They 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.