How Does The New Zealand Tourist Visa Work?

There are many different types of visa that allow international travellers to enjoy New Zealand as per their intended purpose. While some people may want to spend a month road tripping with the family, others may wish to enrol in a long-term training program, seek employment, or relocate to Aotearoa altogether. Regardless of the duration or reason for coming to New Zealand, all travellers must abide by the set of immigration regulations which applies to their particular visa case.

In this article, we will focus on the NZ Tourist Visa, also known as NZ Visitors Visa. We will cover points like “Who needs to apply for an NZ Holiday Visa”, the application procedure and updates on a new policy – the NZ eTA – which will be implemented this coming October.

Visiting New Zealand as a tourist

The tourism industry in New Zealand plays a huge part in the country’s economy. Every year, thousands of tourists cross New Zealand’s borders to get a glimpse of this island-paradise and indulge in its incredible and unique landscapes and culture. Some prefer to explore NZ beaches like those around the Bay of Islands or the Coromandel Peninsula. Others come for the more temperate South Island and the wildness of places such as Fiordland or Lake Pukaki and Tekapo. Many still want to check the sets where The Lord of The Rings trilogy was filmed. But it doesn’t matter what your preferred sight or activity in New Zealand, as a potential tourist you will have to meet certain criteria before being allowed to enter the country. The most basic travel prerequisites any foreign passport holder must conform to in order to visit NZ are:

  • have a valid passport with the expiry date set to at least 3 months after you are supposed to leave NZ territory (at least 1 month in the case of British nationals);

  • either an onward ticket to a third destination or a confirmed returned ticket to your country of residence;

  • relevant travel documents, such as confirmation of accommodation, travel itineraries, letters from friends or family residing in NZ, etc;

  • bank statements and credit/debit cards showing proof of sufficient funds to pay for your travel during your stay in NZ;

  • be in good health conditions;

  • hold a valid NZ tourist visa, if required.

Who needs a holiday visa to New Zealand

Whether you need a visa to go to New Zealand on holiday will depend on your nationality and which passport you travel with. While there are travellers who can holiday in New Zealand visa-free, some countries aren’t part of any special agreements and their citizens have to undergo an application process in order to obtain an NZ tourist visa.

If you fit into one of the following categories, you won’t need to apply for a holiday visa before coming to New Zealand:

  • you are a citizen or resident of Australia or New Zealand

  • you are a citizen and/or passport holder of the United Kingdom

  • you hold a passport from one of the countries which have signed the visa-free agreement with New Zealand.

Should you not fall under any of the aforementioned categories, you are will need a visitor visa if wanting to travel to New Zealand for tourism and/or short-term study. The majority of travellers who are required to apply for a tourist visa can do so online by filling up an application form and attaching all required documentation. In this case, not only will you need to apply for a tourist visa in advance but also make sure that your passport stays valid for a minimum of three months after the date you are expected to leave New Zealand. Most NZ visitors visa are valid for a period of 18 months from the date of issue, out of which you can spend a maximum of 9 months in New Zealand territory. For travellers who are above the age of 12 and hold a biometric or electronic passport, it may be possible to use the NZ Customs eGate service and go through security checks faster.

NZ tourist visa application procedure

Citizens of foreign countries who aren’t eligible for visa-free travel in New Zealand must undergo a visa application process prior to departure. This process will provide NZ authorities with enough information to determine whether or not to grant the applicant the right to enter and travel in New Zealand for the purpose of tourism, family reunion, or short-term study.

Once you have checked your visa status and learned about the necessary documents, it is important to gather proof of funds to be submitted with the visa application. Since the NZ visitor visa doesn’t give travellers the right to work, applicants must be able to provide authorities with proof that they have the financial means (through bank statements, credit cards, travellers’ cheques, etc.) to pay for their trip to New Zealand.

When all documentation is ready, you can complete the online application form for your NZ Visitor Visa. Besides submitting the required documents, you will also be asked to answer a series of questions with regards to your health status and travel plans, as well as provide basic personal data such as date of birth and residential address. Make sure to respond to the questionnaire in full and as accurately as possible. Any misleading, omitted or wrong information can result in having your visa denied. After sending your application through, an answer should arrive in your email inbox with the visa confirmation.

In case your country is NOT part of the NZ visa-waiver agreement you will need the following documents to apply for a New Zealand visitor visa:

  • passport information page scanned in high-resolution colour

  • a high-resolution, digitalised passport-standard photograph

  • detailed travel itinerary and evidence to support that information (accommodation and tours booking confirmation, letters from family and/or friends, etc.)

  • temporary New Zealand address, if applicable

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

  • employment history and/or CV

  • at least one of the three valid electronic means of payment – PayPal, Credit Card, Debit Card

On top of these requirements, there are a handful of important instructions concerning the application for a tourist visa to New Zealand:

  • unless stated otherwise, an NZ holiday visa is valid for a period of 18 months from issue date

  • travellers with a valid tourist visa are allowed to stay for a maximum of 9 months on New Zealand territory

  • foreign passport holders with an NZ tourist visa must have either a return or onward ticket to a third destination

  • the New Zealand visitors visa also allows its bearer to enrol in short-term courses (not more than 3 months)

  • evidence of having genuine tourist intentions is necessary in order to be granted a holiday visa

  • no kind of employment is allowed under an NZ visitor visa. If you wish to work in New Zealand, apply for a designated Work Visa

  • applicants are required to show evidence of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while travelling in New Zealand

  • the registered passport must be valid for no less than 90 days past the expected departure date from NZ

NZ tourist visa for visa-waiver countries

Together with travellers from another 59 countries, Canadian passport holders are part of the NZ visa-waiver scheme – an agreement that gives the right of entry and travel in New Zealand without having to apply for an official tourist visa. Nonetheless, eligible travellers still have to abide by general NZ immigration requirements, fill up a passenger arrival card, and provide border agents in New Zealand with any information they deem needed. Those who meet the criteria are granted permission to spend up to 90 months in New Zealand on tourism, business or short-term study trips only.

In order to determine the eligibility of a given traveller to the New Zealand visa free program, he/she must:

  • hold a valid passport from one of the enlisted visa-waiver countries

  • possess all relevant documents in good state

  • show evidence of having enough funds to back up all travel costs during the stay in NZ

  • have a confirmed onward ticket to a third destination or a return flight to the traveller’s country of residence. Instead of showing a proof of funds to purchase the ticket, as is the case with visitor visa applications, visa-exempt travellers must have a reservation confirmation before landing in New Zealand

  • a complete and signed Passenger Arrival Card (available at all NZ ports of entry) confirming good health and character status

The current list of visa-exempt countries for New Zealand is as follows:

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 (Portugal permanent residents)
San Marino
Saudi Arabia
Slovak Republic
Taiwan (only permanent residents)
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom (right of permanent residency in the United Kingdom needed)
United States of America (USA nationals included)
Vatican City

New Electronic Travel Authority for New Zealand

Over the past few years, we have seen various countries introducing new immigration policies and more modernized travel security systems. After its first announcement in 2018, the Government of New Zealand has finally decided to introduce the Electronic Travel Authority (eTA) from 1 October 2019 onward. The NZ eTA will only be eligible to travellers who currently hold a passport from one of the visa-waiver countries. Much like the US ESTA or Canadian eTA, the NZeTA will be done fully online and will work as a way to streamline all travel and immigration processes, both for the sake of foreign travellers and New Zealanders. Together with the eTA, the NZ Government will also be bringing forth an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL), previously non-enforced in the country. The IVL is the way the government has found to maintain New Zealand’s high-standard tourism industry, developing infrastructure and investing in nature conservation programs in the hopes to improve even more the traveller’s experience. Therefore, from October 2019, visa-waiver travellers, including Canadian passport holders, will have to submit an eTA application and pay the respective IVL and processing fees at least 72 hours prior to leaving for New Zealand.

Some details that will be asked of applicants for the New Zealand eTA include:

  • Personal information such as full name, marital status, date of birth, address, etc.

  • Passport info

  • A valid email address as well as other contacts

  • Declarations such as travel itinerary and criminal history that will help authorities assess potential immigration and domestic security threats

  • Biometric information (automatically captured passport photo)

Once granted, an eTA will be valid for a total of two years, unless the registered passport comes to expire first. At present, the cost for a NZ eTA will depend on the channel you use for submitting your application. Meanwhile, the IVL will be charged on top of the eTA, with each submitted application. Both fees can be paid for with bank cards (Debit or Credit) and/or via PayPal. A pre-registration phase of the NZ eTA has been announced to kick-off in July 2019, but the official system launch is scheduled for October the 1st, 2019.