When Does The New Electronic Visa For New Zealand Launch?

Once a lost island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand has now become a mainstream tourist destination and receives millions of visitors from around the world every year. Some of those who travel to Aotearoa are looking to photograph the country’s breathtaking landscapes, others hope to find tranquillity in the peacefulness of its beaches and lakes, and there are those who want an adrenaline boost by exploring the countless adventure sports opportunities. New Zealand is a tourist destination for all. It is a temperate version of an island-paradise.

Among the main reasons why tourists choose New Zealand in the first place is to be close to and explore its unique natural environments. The landscape is dotted with National Parks, from the Tongariro on the North Island to the Abel Tasman and Fiordland on the South. And it was thinking of the conservation of these very ecosystems, together with the need to better assess the influx of so many tourists, that the country will be officially launching the new Electronic Travel Authorisation system in 2019. Even if the eTA won’t change the way travellers enjoy the country, it will make them organise and plan their trips with more care.

Below is a breakdown of the NZ eTA, covering main points such as when will the new electronic visa for New Zealand launch and what it means for NZ visa-exempt travellers.

The NZ eTA – New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority

For a while now, countries like the US and Canada have had their electronic visa systems – the ESTA and eTA, respectively – in place as a means to better manage immigration-related procedures. Europe will soon be implementing their own electronic travel and information authorization system (ETIAS), which will cover the entire Schengen Zone. So, based on the proved effectiveness of such kind of systems, the Government of New Zealand decided to follow suit.

Therefore, beginning on 1 October 2019, United Kingdom passport holders and permanent residents, together with nationals of another 59 countries which currently do not need the traditional visitor’s visa to enter New Zealand, will have to bear a valid eTA prior to departing for their trip.

Although the idea of the NZ eTA was announced back in 2018, its introduction was only confirmed by the New Zealand government on 25 February 2019. According to the official announcement, the new NZ eTA is designed to “improve the way travellers are assessed before they arrive in New Zealand, and help reduce the time needed for border clearance and strengthen border security.”

In further detail, the eTA system hopes to:

  • reinforce border security checks and diminish the risks of illegal immigration

  • handle drug and human trafficking issues more efficiently

  • mitigate chances of biosecurity breaches

  • enhance the overall travel experience by providing faster and more versatile border-crossing procedures

  • reinforce and support international agreements and relationships the government of New Zealand has with other countries

  • keep up to date with technological advances in terms of security systems, adapting to the necessities of travellers, stakeholders, and the government alike.

The Reasons Behind The NZ eTA

New Zealand’s tourism industry has undergone a phase of massive growth in the past decade, and the numbers keep rising. Due to the fact that a large share of tourists doesn’t have to apply for a formal NZ visa before arrival, the government of New Zealand has begun to consider the downsides of not screening travellers in advance. As an example, with the current framework, immigration officers only receive information about who is coming to the country once the traveller is already on the way. This slows down the passport control procedure, as well as the subsequent biosecurity and customs checks, at times causing delays and worsening the overall experience of the traveller. In addition, with limited personal and travel information, border agents have difficulty to determine whether or not a traveller may pose a threat to the health or safety of New Zealanders. So, in order to better manage these immigration-related issues and streamline border crossing procedures, the government of New Zealand has decided to introduce a more modern travel authorisation system called eTA.

NZ eTA For Members of The NZ Visa Waiver Program

The UK is among the countries that have signed the visa-waiver accord with New Zealand, allowing its citizens to travel to Aotearoa on tourism without submitting an application for a formal tourist visa. Despite not needing to undergo the application processes, these visa-exempt travellers still have to abide by New Zealand entry regulations. In addition, they must fill up an NZ Passenger Arrival Card upon arrival and go through the same passport control procedure and security checks as other travellers.

As part of the visa-waiver agreement, visitors are granted the right to enter and travel around New Zealand for a period of up to 90 days (180 days in the case of United Kingdom passport holders) for tourism or short-term study purposes only. Visitors under this kind of visa are prohibited to seek or accept employment, as well as engage in long-term (more than 3 months) courses.

In order to be eligible for entry in New Zealand under the visa-waiver treaty, the traveller must:

  • have an undamaged and valid passport which does not expire until at least 3 months after the traveller’s scheduled departure from NZ

  • be in possession of any travel-related documents that may be required to confirm the person’s right of entry

  • hand in a completed and signed NZ Passenger Arrival Card (which can be found at any NZ airport) as a declaration of the traveller’s good character and health

  • be able to show NZ immigration authorities either an onward-travel ticket to a third country or a return ticket to the traveller’s country of residence

  • provide enough evidence of having the means to support oneself throughout the stay in New Zealand

Currently, there are 60 member countries listed in the NZ visa-free scheme which will be impacted by the introduction of the eTA. They are:

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 (needs to hold the right to reside permanently in Portugal)
San Marino
Saudi Arabia
Slovak Republic
Taiwan (only permanent residents)
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom (must have a permanent resident card for the United Kingdom)
United States of America (United States nationals included)
Vatican City

The NZ Electronic Travel Authority Framework

With the introduction of the new NZ Electronic Travel Authority, the way visa-exempt travellers previously organised for a trip to New Zealand will change. Starting in October 2019, all members of the visa-waiver agreement will be required to complete an online form with personal data and travel information at least 72 hours before departing for New Zealand. In addition, the form will include a questionnaire with health-related questions and inquiries about criminal background. Travellers applying for an eTA will also need to attach any relevant documentation to the application and pay a processing fee through one of the valid electronic means of payment.

Since the NZ eTA doesn’t classify as an official visa, it will not affect the current travel conditions of visa-free nationals. These passport holders will still be able to visit New Zealand for a period of up to three months (UK nationals may stay for up to six months), the only difference being they will now need to notify NZ authorities of their arrival by submitting an eTA application.

Together with the Electronic Travel Authority, the government of New Zealand has decided to bring forth the IVL, or International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy. Announced in June 2018, the NZ IVL is the means the government has found to sustainably improve the tourism infrastructure by charging a small fee from the very tourists who use it. It also works as an environmental protection fee since part of the resources will be used to develop nature conservation initiatives.

The levy will be directed at all travellers eligible to an eTA and the fee will be paid in the same transaction as the travel authorisation. Both the eTA and the NZ IVL will be valid for a period of two years, starting from the date of issue.

Within the framework of the Electronic Travel Authority, travellers will be required to provide the following details and documents:

  • Full name as in passport

  • Date of birth

  • Registered passport information

  • Valid email address, phone number, and residential address

  • Documents that show the applicants criminal history and travel plans while in NZ

  • Biometric information (digitalised passport photograph)

  • Paid processing fee and IVL fee

NZ eTA – Who Needs to Apply

The new travel authorisation for New Zealand will not be eligible for all foreign nationals. Eligibility for the NZ eTA will depend on your nationality or, in some cases, the country in which you hold permanent residency. It is important to check the entry conditions for your particular country prior to organising your trip to New Zealand so as to determine whether you need an eTA or an official NZ visa. At present, foreign nationals who will have to undergo an online application for the New Zealand eTA include:

  • citizens of NZ visa-waiver member countries, crew members and passengers of cruise ships, and crew members of commercial airlines

  • while citizens of Australia will not need an eTA for New Zealand, if the traveller is only a permanent resident of Australia he/she will need to bear a valid Electronic Travel Authority

  • all New Zealand nationals and bearers of NZ visas, regardless of it being a temporary permit or a permanent residency, will be exempt from an eTA.

Similarly, many travellers coming to New Zealand with the purpose of tourism or transit will not be required to submit an eTA application before their trip. Again, this will depend on the person’s nationality, but also on his/her current visa status and links to authorities and/or treaties. Some of the eTA-exempt travellers include:

  • anyone who already bears a valid NZ visa or is required to apply for one in order to visit New Zealand

  • citizens of Australia travelling to NZ on a valid Australian passport

  • NZ nationals travelling on a valid NZ passport

  • NZ citizens travelling with a valid foreign passport that nonetheless identifies the holder of the passport as a citizen of New Zealand

  • any traveller who has been officially invited by the NZ Government

  • foreign nationals who arrive in NZ under The Antarctic Treaty

  • all travellers who are either members of or linked to a visiting force

  • those travelling as passengers or crew of a non-cruise vessel

  • foreign cargo ship crew members

When Does the NZ eTA and IVL Launch

A pre-registration stage for the eTA and IVL will kick-start on the 1st of July 2019. This will work as a test phase so as to receive feedback from applicants as well as give them time to familiarise with the new system. According to planning, the official launch for the new electronic visa for New Zealand is scheduled for 1 October 2019. From then onward, all travellers eligible to an eTA will have to bear an authorisation prior to boarding for New Zealand.