New Zealand Holiday Visa Explained

For many travellers, spending a holiday in New Zealand is a dream. In a country where landscapes transform from white sand beaches to turquoise-blue lakes, dense temperate forests and snow-capped mountains, there is no lack of places to see. And when you match this diverse natural environment with top-notch tourism infrastructure, welcoming locals, and rich culture, it creates a travel-paradise for all types of visitors – from big families to young backpackers and action sports enthusiasts. No wonder New Zealand’s tourism industry is booming.

But in order to holiday in NZ, every traveller, regardless of their nationality and visa eligibility, must meet a handful of criteria before setting off on their trip. Some of New Zealand’s general immigration requirements include:

  • Travellers must hold a valid, undamaged passport with an expiry date set to at least 3 months beyond the scheduled departure from NZ.

  • Foreign nationals must be able to provide all relevant travel documents for their respective visa.

  • Each visitor coming to New Zealand requires confirmation of a ticket back to his/her country of origin or to a third destination where he/she holds the right to enter.

  • Anyone hoping to holiday in NZ must show proof of enough financial means to support themselves during the period of stay in New Zealand, according to visa conditions.

  • Visitors need to be in good enough health so as not to pose a medical threat to New Zealanders or burden the New Zealand Health Service financially.

With regards to character requirements, should one of the following cases be identified, the New Zealand immigration authorities are likely to refuse entry:

  • the traveller is forbidden to enter NZ;

  • has the potential to commit an offence;

  • has been convicted to over 5 years in prison after committing a criminal offence;

  • has been convicted to more than 12 months in prison sentence for having committed a criminal offence in the last 10 years;

  • has been deported or removed from another country;

  • poses a threat to the public and general order.

Holiday Visa New Zealand

Besides Australian passport holders and citizens of the 60 countries listed under the visa-exempt accord, all foreign travellers who bear an ordinary passport are required to obtain a holiday visa prior to arriving in New Zealand. A holiday or visitor visa grants its bearer the right to enter and travel in NZ for a predetermined period of time, according to each authorization’s conditions. Those in possession of a valid NZ holiday visa are only allowed to carry tourism-related activities, visit friends and family, or enrol in short-term courses (less than 3 months).

Work is not permitted for the holder of an NZ visitor visa and should he/she be caught seeking employment strict fines and deportation are applicable. Because employment is restricted for tourists coming into New Zealand, travellers must be able to present evidence of financial means (through credit cards, bank statements, travellers’ cheques, etc.) to cover the costs of the entire length of their stay in New Zealand.

Once you have determined whether or not you need a holiday visa for NZ, the next step is to gather all documentation and complete the online application form. Together with the application form and relevant documents, applicants of an NZ tourist visa are required to answer a series of questions concerning travel purpose, travel plans, and criminal history, as well as health status.

It is important that all information provided is accurate and truthful. Misleading or incorrect details can result in the refusal of the visa. After paying all applicable fees and submitting your application an answer should arrive in your email inbox according to the visa’s processing conditions.

In case your country is NOT a part of the NZ visa-free scheme you will be required to bear the following documents in order to apply for a New Zealand holiday visa:

  • A high-resolution, colour scan of the information page of the registered passport, signature included.

  • A clear, digitalised photograph that fits passport standards.

  • Travel itinerary and any other documents and/or letters stating your purpose of travel and plans during the time you will spend in New Zealand.

  • If applicable, the address of where you will be staying in New Zealand.

  • Documents that verify any commitments you have back home and the way in which they correspond to your travel plans in NZ.

  • A history of previous and current employment(s).

  • Either a PayPal account or a valid Debit/Credit card.

Anyone applying for an NZ holiday visa should also be aware of some important details with regards to visa conditions. They are:

  • The majority of NZ visitor visas have 18 months of validity, counting from the issue date.

  • Bearers of a valid visitor visa are allowed to stay in New Zealand for a maximum of 9 months.

  • All travellers must hold a ticket out of New Zealand in order to be granted a holiday visa.

  • The NZ tourist visa allows travellers to take up study in the form of short-term courses (maximum of 3 months).

  • Only those with a genuine purpose of tourism and sufficient evidence of an intention to leave New Zealand will be granted a holiday visa.

  • Those who wish to seek employment in New Zealand must apply for a work permit. Travellers under an NZ holiday visa are prohibited to work.

  • All foreign nationals have to provide evidence of having enough funds to pay for travel costs (accommodation, food, transport, activities, etc.) during their trip to New Zealand.

  • Foreign passport-holders coming into New Zealand must assure their travel document is valid for 3 months after the expected departure date from New Zealand.

Unlike the entry requirements for New Zealand, another countries choose to introduce a simple and faster entry system – the tourism tax, like the one for visiting Cancun.

New Zealand Visa Waiver scheme and list of countries

As it is the case with many European Schengen countries, New Zealand has signed an agreement with 60 nations allowing their citizens to travel in NZ territory without having to undergo a Visitor Visa application process. This scheme, known as the NZ travelling visa-waiver, is eligible to any passport holder of one of the enlisted countries who wish to visit New Zealand for a maximum of 3 months (6 months for British nationals) and with the sole purpose of tourism, business or short-term study. Although exempt of visa applications, these travellers still have to abide by regular New Zealand immigration policy by meeting certain criteria, such as:

  • having a valid passport that will not expire until at least 3 months after the expected departure from New Zealand

  • providing confirmation of an onward-travel or return ticket prior to boarding a carrier to New Zealand, which will also be required upon arrival in the country

  • evidence of sufficient financial means to cover the entire cost of travel during the stay in New Zealand

  • an NZ Passenger Arrival Card filled and signed according to regulations which confirm the passenger’s good health and sound character

Besides meeting these criteria, visa-free travellers must be ready to answer all questions and inquiries posed by NZ border control agents and customs officers – they have the final say on granting or declining entry.

The current 2019 list of New Zealand visa-free countries 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 (must have a Portuguese permanent residency)
San Marino
Saudi Arabia
Slovak Republic
Taiwan (only permanent residents)
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom (must hold a valid UK permanent resident card)
United States of America (including nationals of the USA)
Vatican City

NZ eTA (Electronic Travel Authority) for visa-exempt nationals

Following a rapid increase in the number of visitors and the implementation of electronic immigration systems such as the ESTA in the United States and the eTA in Canada, the NZ government has decided to make some changes. From October 1st, 2019, New Zealand will be introducing a new travel authorisation for those who wish to come to the country on tourism. The NZ Electronic Travel Authority will work very similar to the Canadian eTA, hoping to improve New Zealand’s Entry/Exit system by screening visa-free travellers before their arrival to the country. Because a large share of foreign travellers who come to New Zealand on holiday doesn’t need to apply for an official tourist visa, authorities lack detailed information on visitor’s personal background and travel plans. This information, in turn, could be used to determine which travellers may pose a threat to the health of New Zealanders or are a risk to the public and general order. Hence, by implementing a pre-travel authorisation such as the eTA, NZ authorities will be able to better manage immigration-related issues as well as speed up border check-ups.

As it is the case with the U.S. ESTA, the Electronic Travel Authority for New Zealand will be done fully online. Applicants will be asked to fill in a form and respond to a basic questionnaire so as to provide details about their health status, criminal background, and travel plans. They will also be asked to review all answers in order to avoid misleading or incorrect information, before paying the eTA processing fee and submitting the application. A response should be sent to the applicant’s email address in a matter of minutes, yet in some cases, it may take up to 72 hours for the system to process an application. There will be no need to stamp an eTA on the passport – the authorisation will be read electronically when you depart your home country and arrive at an NZ border checkpoint.

Although it is not a visa, the New Zealand eTA will affect the immigration procedures for all 60 countries which are members of the NZ visa-free scheme, including the United Kingdom. Still, the conditions for travel remain the same: visa-waiver travellers are allowed to stay in New Zealand as tourists for up to 90 days (180 days for British passport-holders) and can only engage in activities concerning tourism, business or short-term study. Once granted, an eTA will allow for multiple entries (provided that each stay doesn’t surpass 3 months) within a period of 2 years. If the applicant’s passport comes to expire before the eTA runs out, a new application should be submitted.

Crew members of airlines and cruise ships will also be required to apply for an eTA before travelling to New Zealand as of October 2019. The same applies to passengers from a transit visa waiver country, regardless of New Zealand not being their final destination.

Apart from introducing the eTA system, the government of New Zealand will also implement the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) as a means for foreign travellers to contribute to the development of the very tourism industry they enjoy during their trip. The IVL will come into force alongside the NZ eTA and should be paid under the same application. The eTA and the IVL will both refer to the applicant’s passport and be valid for the same period of time.

NZ eTA exemptions

Anyone travelling on a New Zealand passport or bearing a valid New Zealand visa (either a temporary visa or a residence permit) will not need to apply for an eTA. Although citizens of Australia will not be required to submit an eTA application, those who only have an Australian permanent residency will have to undergo the procedure.

Other categories of travellers who will not require an eTA when travelling to New Zealand are:

  • passengers and crew members of non-cruise vessels

  • crew members of a foreign (non-New Zealand) cargo ship

  • guests invited by the New Zealand government

  • anyone travelling under The Antarctic Treaty

  • those who are associated with a visiting force