New Zealand Visa Requirements Explained

Anyone who has been to New Zealand has seen and felt the things that make this country such a unique place on earth. The tranquil beaches of the Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Peninsula, the surreal mineral pools of Rotorua, Taupo and The Tongariro National Park, the wild Abel Tasman National Park – the list goes on. Hence, it comes as no surprise to see so many people wanting to travel to New Zealand.

But one thing to keep in mind is that depending on the nationality of the traveller and his/her intentions for coming to New Zealand, he/she will have to abide by NZ immigration policy and may have to apply for an official visa. So although the excitement levels may be up, those organising a trip to New Zealand must be aware of both their responsibilities and rights as foreigners.

Below you will find in-depth information about travel and visa requirements for the territory of New Zealand.

General conditions of entry for New Zealand

All foreign passport holders travelling to New Zealand are subjected to a series of general entry requirements, regardless of the purpose of travel or visa status. Failing to comply with these regulations or provide enough information for authorities to assess your case will result in having your entry to New Zealand denied. Therefore, it is important to find out what are the entry requirements for your country and, if a visa is necessary, make sure to apply in advance.

Some of the basic prerequisites all non-NZ passport holders should keep in mind are:

  • be in possession of an undamaged passport which remains valid for at least three months past the date you are supposed to depart from New Zealand.

  • have all personal and travel-related documents relevant to your particular visa category.

  • have a confirmation of either a return ticket to your country of residence or an onward ticket to a third country where you have the right of entry or hold a valid visa.

  • be able to show NZ authorities that you have enough funds to cover travel costs (accommodation, transport, food, etc.) during your stay in New Zealand and according to your visa requirements.

  • be in good health and not pose any medical threats to citizens or residents of New Zealand.

  • show no signs of presenting a risk of a financial burden to the NZHS (New Zealand Health Service).

When it comes to character evaluation, a foreign traveller may be denied entry into New Zealand if one of the following applies:

  • has a restriction that prohibits his/her entry into NZ territory;

  • has been identified to be a potential perpetrator;

  • he/she committed a criminal offence that led to more than 5 years in prison;

  • he/she committed a criminal offence in the last 10 years which led to more than 12 months in prison;

  • has been either excluded, removed, or deported from another country;

  • has been deemed a potential threat to NZ public order and/or the security of New Zealanders.

Obs: Travellers who are older than 12 years old and hold a biometric ordinary passport or an electronic passport can now request to use the NZ Customs eGate service so as to speed up immigration and customs checks.

NZ biosecurity and customs regulations

New Zealand’s borders are known for having rigorous biosecurity checks and customs laws. These strict regulations are based on the fact that New Zealand has a very unique and highly sensitive ecosystem which is bound to be disrupted with the introduction of alien species. Thus, every traveller, regardless of country of origin or visa status, will have to go through customs and biosecurity inspections after clearing passport control and collecting luggage.

Items such as plant, food, and/or animal products as well as outdoor gear (hiking boots, tents, bicycles, climbing equipment, etc.) need to be declared upon arrival in New Zealand. If a traveller is in possession of any of the aforementioned items but fails to declare it, he/she may be subject to a fine. Biosecurity agents may ask to search, x-ray and/or have a dog sniff your luggage in order to identify the presence of goods that deemed of biosecurity risk to the fauna or flora of New Zealand. It is advisable that travellers get familiar with biosecurity guidelines and make sure that boots, backpacks and other outdoor equipment are thoroughly cleaned before leaving for New Zealand.

When it comes to duty-free concessions, visitors above the age of 17 are allowed to bring certain pre-determined amounts of tobacco, cigarettes, and alcohol. Be sure to check each item’s authorised quantity according to your specific travel conditions and declare them upon entry in New Zealand. Customs officers reserve the right to conduct a baggage search and make inquiries so as to verify your declaration.

Different NZ visa categories

Foreign travellers who wish to come to New Zealand can opt for one of the four main visa categories – Study, Work, Visitor, and Transit. The type of visa you will choose will be relative to your purpose for travelling to NZ and any existing bilateral agreements between your country of residence and New Zealand. In any case, each visa will establish different travel conditions, call for relevant documentation and, at times, require the foreign national to undergo an application process.

Below is a brief summary of the main NZ travel permits:

  • Study in NZ: Travellers who wish to take up long-term courses or enrol in a New Zealand university or college must apply for an NZ Study Visa. Visa conditions vary depending on which passport you hold and whether or not there are any diplomatic ties between the government of New Zealand and your country. The duration of your studies, as well as the institution you are applying for, will also influence the terms of your study visa.

  • NZ Employment/Work permit: Those who intend to seek employment and/or have an offer of employment in New Zealand must hold a valid NZ Work Visa before conducting any work-related activities. In most cases, an NZ work permit is sponsored by a company or business registered in New Zealand, which must explain the reasons behind employing a foreigner instead of a local. Thus, your application should have the necessary documentation to sustain such a declaration.

  • Visiting New Zealand for tourism purposes: The majority of foreign nationals arriving in New Zealand have come either to travel, conduct business, visit friends and family, or enrol in short-term courses (maximum of 3 months). When one of the aforementioned situations is applicable, travellers should apply for an NZ holiday visa. That is unless your country is listed as “visa-exempt”, in which case there is no application process involved.

  • Transit Visa for New Zealand and Australia: Because a large number of flights make a stop in Australia before arriving in New Zealand, travellers are advised to double-check whether they need an Australian Transit Visa before departing for their trip. Likewise, New Zealand requires passport-holders of some countries to bear a valid NZ Transit Visa when stopping over on their way to another country. Both Australia and New Zealand have transit visa-free agreements with many countries, allowing travellers to go through the territories without the need to undergo an application process.

New Zealand Tourist or Visitor Visa

If coming to New Zealand to travel, study for no longer than three months, visit friends and family, or do business you may need to apply for a visitor/holiday/tourist visa. A valid NZ visitor visa will grant you the right to conduct any of the above-mentioned activities within the period stipulated in your travel permit. Irrespective of needing a holiday visa or not, travellers who come to New Zealand with the purpose of travel are not allowed to work.

Among the people who do not require a tourist visa to enter New Zealand are:

  • Bearers of Australian or New Zealand citizenship or permanent residency.

  • British passport-holders (allowed to stay visa-free for up to 180 days).

  • Nationals of any country that is listed under the NZ visa-waiver accord (allowed to stay visa-free for up to 90 days).

If none of the above conditions applies to your case you will need to bear a valid visa when arriving at a New Zealand border post. Many applications for visitor visa can be done online by filling up a form with personal data and travel information, attaching relevant documents, and paying the respective processing fee. In all cases, visa-exempt or not, those who visit New Zealand with the sole purpose of tourism must be able to show evidence of having enough funds to cover travel costs for the entire duration of their trip.

NZ Visitor Visa requirements and regulations

If your country is not a part of the visa-free scheme for NZ, be sure to have the following documents ready when applying for a holiday visa:

  • A high-resolution scan of the passport info page and signature

  • A passport-standard photograph digitalised

  • Documents and/or letters stating the purpose of your trip to New Zealand, as well as a travel itinerary

  • Evidence of having commitments and/or ties that require you to return to your home country

  • A history of employment

  • An electronic means of payment – PayPal or debit/credit card

Some important points concerning the conditions of an NZ visitor visa are:

  • Most holiday visas are valid for 18 months counting from the issue date

  • Bearers of a visitor visa can engage in a short-term study programme for a maximum of 3 months

  • No foreign passport holder is allowed to work in New Zealand when under a regular visitor visa

  • The maximum stay in New Zealand with a holiday visa is 9 months

  • All holders of a tourist visa must have a ticket out of New Zealand as well as enough funds to pay for travel expenses

NZ Visa-waiver and the new Electronic Travel Authority for New Zealand

New Zealand has signed an accord with another 60 countries to establish a mutual travelling visa-exempt policy, which allows citizens to go on tourism-only trips without having to apply for an official visa. At present, the following countries enjoy visa-free travelling in New Zealand:

Czech Republic
Estonia (citizens only)
Hong Kong (residents with HKSAR or British National (Overseas) passports only)
Korea (South)
Latvia (citizens only)
Lithuania (citizens only)

Macau (Macau Special Administrative Region passports only)
Portugal (Portuguese permanent residents)
San Marino
Saudi Arabia
Slovak Republic
Taiwan (permanent residency cardholders only)
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom (United Kingdom permanent residents)
United States of America (USA nationals as well)
Vatican City

Although citizens of the above nations don’t require a formal visa when holidaying in New Zealand, as of 1 October 2019 they will be asked to hold a valid Electronic Travel Authority (eTA).

The NZ eTA comes as a measure to streamline border crossing processes in New Zealand, aiming to improve both the travellers’ experiences and diminish the chances of immigration-related issues. As it is already the case with the U.S. ESTA, for example, those who wish to visit New Zealand for tourism purposes will have to complete and submit an online application with personal data and travel info, as well as pay a nominal processing fee. Once granted, the NZ eTA will remain valid for a period of two years, allowing for multiple entries in NZ.

Since the eTA for New Zealand doesn’t classify as a visa, travel conditions for NZ visa-waiver visitors will remain the same. When in possession of a valid eTA, travellers will be allowed to spend up to 90 days in NZ territory, provided that they have an onward-travel ticket and enough funds to cover living expenses. Together with the eTA, the government of New Zealand will also be introducing the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL). This levy is designed to encourage tourists to collaborate with the development of the tourism industry and nature conservation initiatives in New Zealand. The IVL will be mandatory starting in October 2019 and will be paid together with the eTA application fee.

So as long as your home country is part of the visa-waiver scheme, and unless you are an Australian or New Zealand passport holder or already bear a valid NZ visa (either temporary or resident), you will be required to bear an eTA for future travels in New Zealand.

The NZ eTA will only come into force in October, but a pre-registration phase is set to begin as of the 1st of July, 2019.