Home | Browse Topics | Immigration & refugees | Immigration | Travelling to and entering New Zealand

Immigration & refugees

Chapters in this topic

Travelling to and entering New Zealand


Visas and entry permission

To get into New Zealand you need:

  • a visa, and
  • entry permission when you arrive.

You usually have to get a New Zealand visa from overseas before you arrive here, and if you don’t have a visa you won’t be allowed to board your flight here.

But many countries – basically all western countries and the wealthier Asian, Middle Eastern, and South American countries – are covered by a New Zealand “visa waiver”. If you’re from one of those countries, you don’t need to get a visa first; instead you can apply for both a visa and entry permission when you arrive here (see below). Since October 2019 people covered by the visa waiver must apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (“ETA”) before they enter New Zealand.

You’ll usually be given entry permission if you have a visa, though it’s not guaranteed.

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s 18

Note: All New Zealand citizens have the right to enter and leave New Zealand and move within it freely. If you’re not a New Zealand citizen but you’re here legally on a visa, you have the right to move around within New Zealand freely and to leave when you want.

Visas, visa waivers and Electronic Travel Authorities: Do I need a visa before I travel to New Zealand?

Immigration (Visa, Entry Permission, and Related Matters) Regulations 2010 ss23B, 23H, 23I

If you want to travel to New Zealand and stay here for a time, you’ll need to get a New Zealand visa before you come here, unless your country is covered by a “visa waiver”. If you’re from one of the visa waiver countries, you must apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (“ETA”) first and then you can apply for a visa at a New Zealand airport when you get here; if Immigration New Zealand allows you to enter the country, they’ll give you a visa and entry permission at the same time. You apply for an ETA online before you travel. It is valid for many visits and for up to 2 years.

Immigration Act 2009, s 69 Immigration (Visa, Entry Permission, and Related Matters) Regulations 2010, reg 18, Schedule 2

In the following cases, you’ll be covered by a visa waiver, and so you won’t need to get a visa overseas but instead you’ll need to get an ETA before you travel:

  • UK, up to 6 months – if you’re a British citizen or passport holder and you have the right to live permanently in the UK, but only for visits to New Zealand up to six months, and only if you’re not coming here for medical treatment
  • Other visa waiver countries, up to 3 months – if you’re a citizen of one of over 50 countries that are specifically exempt, but only for visits up to three months. You can read the full list of visa-waiver countries at www.immigration.govt.nz (search for “Visa waiver countries”). These countries include:
    • most European countries
    • Canada, the US and Mexico (but no Central American countries)
    • some South American countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Chile
    • Japan, South Korea and Malaysia (but no other Asian countries)
    • some Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE (and excluding, for example, Syria, Iraq and Iran).
  • Individual cases – if you’ve been granted an exemption for your particular case by a special direction from the Minister of Immigration.

Note: Australian citizens and permanent residents do not need to apply for an ETA.

Boarding your flight to New Zealand: Airline and Immigration NZ checks

When you check in at the overseas airport for your flight to New Zealand, the airline and Immigration New Zealand will do a check of whether you’re allowed to travel here, including whether you’ve got a valid passport and visa. This is called the “Advance Passenger Processing” system. If everything is okay, Immigration NZ will give the airline clearance to let you board and travel to New Zealand.

You might not be allowed to board if:

  • you don’t hold an ETA, or
  • your visa isn’t current, or isn’t the appropriate type of visa, or
  • if your visa hasn’t yet been transferred over to your current passport or the passport you’re using to enter New Zealand.

Arriving in New Zealand: When and how do I get entry permission?

Once you arrive in New Zealand with your visa, you’ll need to apply for entry permission at the airport. If you don’t already have a visa because you’re from a “visa waiver” country, you show your ETA and apply for a visa and entry permission at the same time when you arrive.

Getting entry permission usually just involves giving an Immigration Officer your arrival card when you arrive (which you’ll have been given on your way to New Zealand – usually while on the plane), along with your passport and visa (if you’ve already got a visa) or ETA. You’ll also usually have to show the Immigration Officer that you’ve got travel tickets out of the country. Details of the requirements for travel tickets or adequate money or sponsorship are included in this chapter (see: “Temporary Visas: Working, studying or visiting for a limited time” below, and “Residence Class Visas: Living in New Zealand permanently”).

Immigration Act 2009, s 46

Having a visa doesn’t guarantee you entry permission once you arrive, but you’ll usually be granted it unless Immigration New Zealand has found some reason to exclude you in the time since they approved your visa application from overseas – for example, if they found that you left out some relevant information from your visa application. Having the visa indicates that, at the time it was granted, Immigration NZ had no reason to think you should be refused entry permission once you arrive.

Did this answer your question?


Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Immigration New Zealand

Immigration New Zealand is the government organisation that deals with visa applications and other immigration issues. It’s part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Website: www.immigration.govt.nz
Phone: 0508 558 855

The Operational manual contains immigration instructions that people who want to come to New Zealand must follow. While it is not a step-by-step guide, it will help you follow Immigration New Zealand’s processes. Access it here: www.immigration.govt.nz/opsmanual

See also Immigration’s policies and processes: www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/policy-and-law/how-the-immigration-system-operates

Immigration and Protection Tribunal

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal determines appeals on Immigration New Zealand’s decisions about refugee and protection matters.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/Tribunals/immigration/immigration-and-protection

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top