What Are The New Zealand Visa Requirements?

The country of New Zealand is a sought-after destination for many travellers, be them young backpackers, families or couples. But regardless of what type of traveller you are, the country you are from or the purpose of your visit, there are a series of requirements which, as a foreigner, you have to abide by.

New Zealand’s visa system is rather comprehensive and offers several different types of permits. Each kind of visa features its own conditions, duration, relevant documentation, and specific requirements. Hence, before purchasing a ticket to New Zealand, it is important to know what visa suits your trip and what are your obligations and rights.

Basic Entry Requirements for New Zealand

Before boarding a flight or ship to NZ, the carrier sends information about the traveller to immigration authorities in New Zealand through what is known as Passenger Name Record (PNR). This information is then cross-referenced with the NZ immigration’s own records, so as to make sure the foreigner has no restrictions to travel to New Zealand. As part of the border crossing procedure, besides checking the traveller’s visa and passport, immigration officers may ask the traveller questions regarding his/her motives to come to New Zealand. This is a general process and applies to everyone who lands on NZ territory, irrespective of already in possession of a valid visa or just transiting through.

In addition, there are a series of other points which border agents need to examine in order to determine whether or not to grant you the right to enter New Zealand, such as:

  • Proof of onward travel: travellers may be asked to show a confirmation of a return ticket home or an onward ticket to a third destination country where he/she has either a visa for or is exempt of one.

  • Evidence of sufficient funds: NZ border agents may also require arriving visitors to provide financial evidence (through bank statements, credit cards, travellers’ cheques, etc.) that they will be able to support themselves during the length of their stay in New Zealand.

  • Sound character check: if deemed necessary, authorities at the port of entry will ask you a series of questions regarding past convictions and/or deportation from another country.

  • Current health status: in order to make sure that you will not pose a medical threat to New Zealanders or burden the NZ Health Service financially, border authorities can inquire about your health status and, if necessary, ask for a medical waiver.

On top of meeting the above-mentioned criteria, travellers arriving in New Zealand must bear the following:

  • an undamaged passport or travel document valid for at least 3 months past the date you are supposed to leave New Zealand

  • a Passenger Arrival Card completed and signed

  • if applicable, a valid NZ visa

  • an onward-travel ticket to depart New Zealand prior to the expiry of your visa and headed to a destination where you are allowed entry

Visa Types – New Zealand

Whether it is to study, work, do business or relocate with the family, there is a visa for New Zealand that fits the case. The country is considered slightly less bureaucratic than Canada or Australia, for example, but immigration requirements still have to be met. The biggest advantage in the case of New Zealand is that you can do the majority of visa applications online and thus speed the entire process up. So before packing your bags, it is important to learn about the types of visas for New Zealand, as well as who can apply, what documents are needed, and what are the costs. Below is a list of the main categories of NZ visa.

NZ Study Visa

Anyone who intends to study in New Zealand for up to 3 months can go do so as a tourist, provided the requirements of the category are met. If the period of the course or training is longer than 90 days, it will be necessary to request a visa that is appropriate for the purpose.

There are different categories of student visas for New Zealand, each with particular conditions and restrictions. For instance, there is a specific visa for people who have been granted a scholarship or refugees who wish to study in NZ. However, the broader type is the Fee Paying Student Visa, which includes all those who want to study in New Zealand – be it a language school, a technical course or higher education. On top of being able to study, those who bear a valid NZ student visa are allowed to have a part-time job (20 hours per week) during the period of the course and work full-time (40 hours per week) when on vacation. In the majority of cases, the student visa is granted for the same period as the course.

The basic documentation and requirements for an NZ study visa are:

  • 1 passport if you are applying online, or 2 if the process is done in person;

  • a valid and undamaged passport;

  • a medical certificate proving that the student is in good health;

  • a certificate of criminal history from the applicants home country and all other countries in which he/she has lived for more than 5 years after completing 17 years, if applicable;

  • document of the educational institution proving the enrolment or approval for the attendance with an indication of the duration of the course;

  • proof that you have to stay in the country during the course period;

  • visa processing fee paid;

  • health insurance with full coverage.

NZ Work Visa

If your intention is to work in New Zealand, you will need an official visa for this specific purpose. Whether for a short or long term employment, appropriate authorization must be provided and, in most cases, it is necessary to receive a job offer beforehand. The company will need to justify why it chose a foreign candidate instead of New Zealand workers, and prove their added value to the position they will occupy. Only after this first phase has been successfully passed can the visa process for the work permit begin.

When applying for an NZ work visa, applicants will require the following documents:

  • passport-standard photographs;

  • a valid passport;

  • certificate of criminal history from all countries in which you have lived for more than 5 years;

  • medical certificate that proves a good general state of health;

  • copy of work contract;

  • NZ work permit fee paid;

  • curriculum vouchers and other proof of professional experience in the area in which you received the job offer.

Foreigners who have the in-demand skills listed by the government of New Zealand can make an Expression of Interest, that is, a manifestation of interest. There is a punctuation system for skills, and should the person reach or surpass the mark he/she may be invited to apply for a specific residence permit for this purpose.

NZ Working Holiday Visa

Within the category of work visas, there is still the possibility of trying a Working Holiday Visa. This authorization focuses on young travellers, mainly from visa-waiver countries, that are between the ages of 18 and 30 who want to spend 12 months in New Zealand studying and working. Registration for the program is usually open once a year usually and the number of spots available depending on the nationality of the applicant. The process is done entirely online and you can only participate once. Those selected must have enough funds to live in New Zealand during this period and can not work in permanent vacancies.

NZ Entrepreneur Visa

For those who wish to work in their own business in New Zealand, the visa to be applied for is the Entrepreneur Work Visa. With it, it is possible to set up a company there and develop it for 3 years. Then, with the business established, it is possible to apply for permanent residence. Candidates for entrepreneurs need to have a detailed business plan and financial means to invest. This requirement can be waived, however, if the company is within the scope of innovation and high technology. The government of New Zealand also has a list of criteria for entrepreneurs and it is necessary to score at least 120 points in the scale to have the application considered.

NZ Tourist Visa

A tourist visa grants its bearer the right to enter and travel around New Zealand for a specific period of time, so long as the traveller meets the basic entry requirements. Many foreign nationals who wish to travel to New Zealand for the purpose of tourism or to visit friends and family must obtain a holiday visa prior to arrival. In order to do so, they must first complete and submit an application form, attaching all relevant documents and responding to the questionnaire as accurately and honestly as possible. Once the tourist visa application has been processed, the traveller will be notified of the decision by email.

The following documents will be necessary when completing the online application for an NZ visitors visa:

  • a high-quality scan of the information and signature page of the passport

  • a digitalised, passport photograph

  • documents that state both the reason for visiting New Zealand as well as a travel itinerary

  • proof that you have financial ties and/or commitments in your home country

  • either a PayPal account, a debit card or a credit card to pay the visa processing fee

Moreover, there are some key points all applicants should bear in mind with regards to the NZ visitor visa conditions:

  • holiday visas are usually granted for a period of 18 months, starting from the date of issue

  • it is possible to enrol in a short-term course (no longer than 3 months) while under a tourist permit

  • a valid visitors visa does not grant its bearer the right to work or seek employment in NZ

  • applicants for a tourist visa must have a return ticket to their country of residence or an onward ticket to a third destination

  • a visitor to New Zealand cannot stay in the country for more than 9 months without having to apply for another permit

NZ Visa-Waiver, NZ eTA, and the IVL

Besides Australian residents and passport-holders, citizens of another 60 countries do not need a specific visa to visit New Zealand for up to 3 months due to being listed among the visa-waiver countries. Even if that is the case, travellers must still make sure that their passport is valid for at least three months after the scheduled date of return.

During the period of visit, visa-waiver travellers are free to visit any city in New Zealand, accompanied or not by family members, and even take a short course lasting for a maximum of 90 days. However, the authorization does not allow the visitor to undertake any remunerated professional activity. Even if the intention is only tourism, entry into the country can be denied if certain requirements are not met, such as:

  • Not having a return ticket to your home country or to any other country where you have authorized entry;

  • Not proving that you have enough money to stay in New Zealand until your return date;

  • Not having good health at the time of travel.

Some of these rules, however, are about to change. As of October 1, 2019, UK passport-holders and citizens of another 59 visa-exempt countries will have to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (eTA) before departing for New Zealand. Although the eTA will not affect the current travel conditions for those eligible for visa-waivers, it will require that an online application is completed prior to arriving at a New Zealand port of entry.

Travellers will also have to pay a fee called IVL (International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy), which will be charged together with the NZ eTA application. Both authorisations will be valid for multiple entries to New Zealand within two years of their issue date. The new NZ eTA system will open up for pre-registration on July 1st, but will only be officially carried out in October 2019.