Disembarkation in New Zealand is generally a straightforward affair, with only the usual customs declarations and luggage-carousel scramble to endure. Under the Orwellian title of 'Advance Passenger Screening', documents that used to be checked after you touched down in NZ (passport, visa etc) are now checked before you board your flight − make sure all your documentation is in order so that your check-in is stress-free.

Customs Regulations

For the low-down on what you can and can’t bring into NZ, see the New Zealand Customs Service website (www.customs.govt.nz). Per-person duty-free allowances:

  • Three 1125mL (max) bottles of spirits or liqueur
  • 4.5L of wine or beer
  • 50 cigarettes, or 50g of tobacco or cigars
  • Dutiable goods up to the value of $700

It's a good idea to declare any unusual medicines. Tramping gear (boots, tents etc) will be checked and may need to be cleaned before being allowed in. You must declare any plant or animal products (including anything made of wood), and food of any kind. Weapons and firearms are either prohibited or require a permit and safety testing. Don't take these rules lightly – noncompliance penalties will really hurt your hip pocket.

Passports

There are no restrictions when it comes to foreign citizens entering NZ. If you have a current passport and visa (or don’t require one), you should be fine.

Visas

Citizens of 60 countries, including Australia, the UK, the US and most EU countries, don't need visas for NZ (length-of-stay allowances vary). See www.immigration.govt.nz.

More Information

Visa application forms are available from NZ diplomatic missions overseas, travel agents and Immigration New Zealand. Immigration New Zealand has more than 25 offices overseas, including the US, UK and Australia; consult the website.

Visitor Visa

Citizens of Australia don’t need a visa to visit NZ and can stay indefinitely (provided they have no criminal convictions). UK citizens don’t need a visa either and can stay in the country for up to six months.

Citizens of another 58 countries that have visa-waiver agreements with NZ don’t need a visa for stays of up to three months per visit, for no more than six months within any 12-month period, provided they have an onward ticket and sufficient funds to support their stay: see the website for details. Nations in this group include Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa and the USA.

Citizens of other countries must obtain a visa before entering NZ. Visitor visas allow stays of up to nine months within an 18-month period, and cost $170 to $220, depending on where in the world the application is processed.

A visitor's visa can be extended from nine to 12 months, but if you get this extension you’ll have to leave NZ after your 12-month stay has expired and wait another 12 months before you can come back. Applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis; you may need to provide proof of adequate funds to sustain you during your visit ($1000 per month) plus an onward ticket establishing your intent to leave. Apply for extensions at any Immigration New Zealand office − see the website (www.immigration.govt.nz) for locations.

Work Visa

It’s illegal for foreign nationals to work in NZ on a visitor visa, except for Australian citizens or permanent residents, who can legally gain work without a visa or permit. If you’re visiting NZ to find work, or you already have an employment offer, you’ll need to apply for a work visa, which can be valid for up to three years, depending on your circumstance. You can apply for a work permit after you’re in NZ, but its validity will be backdated to when you entered the country. The fee for a work visa can be anything upwards of $190, depending on where and how it’s processed (paper or online) and the type of application.

Working Holiday Scheme

Eligible travellers who are only interested in short-term employment to supplement their travels can take part in one of NZ’s working holiday schemes (WHS). Under these schemes citizens aged 18 to 30 (occasionally 35) from 44 countries − including France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries and the USA − can apply for a visa. For most nationalities the visa is valid for 12 months but citizens of Canada and the UK can work for up to 23 months. It’s only issued to those seeking a genuine working holiday, not permanent work, so you’re not supposed to work for one employer for more than three months.

Eligible nationals must apply for a WHS visa from within their own country. Applicants must have an onward ticket, a passport valid for at least three months from the date they will leave NZ and evidence of at least $350 in accessible funds for each month of their stay. The application fee is $165 and isn’t refunded if your application is declined.

The rules vary for different nationalities, so make sure you read up on the specifics of your country’s agreement with NZ at www.immigration.govt.nz.