Australian citizens don’t need a visa to travel to New Zealand, and nationals of certain countries can use a ‘visa waiver scheme’, which allows them to travel to New Zealand without a visitor’s visa and obtain a visitor permit on arrival.
Currently, countries that operate the visa waiver scheme are: Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea (South), Kiribati, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Nauru, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tuvalu, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, Uruguay, the USA (except for nationals from American Samoa and Swains Island), Vatican City and Zimbabwe. Everyone else needs a visitor’s visa to travel to New Zealand and you won’t even be allowed to board a plane to New Zealand without one.
A visitor’s visa is an endorsement in your passport that allows you to travel to New Zealand. The visa may be for a single or multiple journeys, but doesn't necessarily allow you to remain in New Zealand. Those who travel to New Zealand with a visa or visa waiver must complete an arrival card on their outgoing journey, which serves as an application for a visitor permit, which is processed on arrival.
A visitor permit allows you to stay for a short period (usually three months, or six months if you’re a UK citizen) as a tourist, to see friends or relatives, study, take part in sporting and cultural events, undertake a business trip or undergo medical treatment. It doesn’t state on the permit that you may use it to look for a job or visit New Zealand with a view to living there, although many people use it for this purpose (and it’s perfectly legitimate).
Travellers under the visa waiver scheme must have a valid return ticket, sufficient money to support themselves (usually around $1,000 per month or $400 if staying with friends or relatives) and a passport valid for three months beyond the date they intend to leave New Zealand – and must intend to stay in New Zealand for no longer than the period of their permit. If you comply with these requirements, you may travel to New Zealand and should be granted a visitor permit on arrival.
Visitors may stay for a maximum of nine months (which can be made up of a number of shorter periods) in an 18-month period. Once you’ve reached the maximum, you’re required to remain abroad for nine months before returning to New Zealand as a visitor. Visitor permits can be extended by a further three months on application to the NZIS, although this is at their discretion and you're required to be able to support yourself financially without working.
You can be refused a visitor permit (and also a visitor’s visa) if you don’t meet the above requirements or are someone to whom Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1987 applies. This includes those who:
- have been deported from any country;
are the subject of a New Zealand ‘removal order’;
have committed a criminal offence which resulted in imprisonment of 12 months or more;
- are believed to have criminal associations or are suspected of constituting a danger to New Zealand’s security or public order.
The above restrictions also apply to Australians, who don’t need a visa or visitor permit to visit New Zealand.
Visitor’s visas can be applied for at NZIS offices and New Zealand diplomatic missions. Like Australia, New Zealand operates a system whereby applications for visas in major cities such as London and New York can be cleared almost instantly via an electronic link with the NZIS computer in New Zealand.
Fees are usually charged for visas and permits and vary depending on the country where you apply. They must be paid for in local currency by bank draft or money order or in cash (if you’re applying in person). Personal cheques and credit cards aren’t usually accepted. Fees aren’t refundable, even if a visa isn’t granted!
Note that as a visitor to New Zealand you aren’t entitled to use publicly funded health services unless you’re a resident or citizen of Australia or a UK national, or hold a permit valid for at least two years (e.g. a long-term business visa). Unless you belong to one of these categories, it’s strongly recommended that you have comprehensive medical insurance for the duration of your visit.