Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

NZ passport opens world's doors

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

Kiwis have access to among the widest range of visa-free destinations around the world, just behind the United Kingdom and citizens of European Union nations.

According to the annual 2013 Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index, the New Zealand passport opens doors to 168 countries, five fewer than Britain, Finland and Sweden, which topped the list.

New Zealand is ranked joint fifth with Austria and Switzerland in the report that ranked countries according to the number of nations their citizens can access with just a passport.

Nine of the 10 top countries that have visa-free access to more than 170 countries are EU members, including Italy, Denmark and Germany, with only the United States being a non-member nation.

Passport holders from Arab and Muslim states such as Afghanistan and Pakistan enjoy the least freedom of international travel, with Afghans having visa-free access to 28 countries.

Although some Arab Gulf states have freedom of travel among Arab nations, their access is comparatively restricted.

China, the world's most populous nation with 1.3 billion people, rates at just 44 on the list, behind Vietnam, East Timor and Cambodia.

India, with 1.2 billion, rates at 52, fewer than Burkina Faso and Indonesia, the fourth most-populous country.

The report's compilers say there is a strong correlation between average wealth of a nation and its citizens' freedom to travel.

"Visa requirements are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the community of nations," the report said.

Immigration New Zealand area manager Michael Carley says New Zealand has special visa waiver agreements with more than 50 countries "to encourage tourism and recognise long-standing relationships".

"People from visa waiver countries do not need a visitor visa to enter New Zealand for a period of less than three months, or six months if from the UK," he said.

Thai immigrant Jackie Neeramphorn, a permanent resident who is applying for New Zealand citizenship, said she "cannot wait" to "enjoy the freedom" that comes with holding a New Zealand passport.

With her Thai passport, Ms Neeramphorn is able to get visa-free access to 64 nations, or 104 fewer countries than a Kiwi can.

House of Travel retail manager Brent Thomas said he did not believe Kiwi travellers chose their travel destinations based on whether they required a visa, but believed visa-free agreements benefit the in-bound tourist market.

"If we have a lower barrier of entry for people to come and visit us, absolutely it would be hugely advantageous from an in-bound tourism point of view," Mr Thomas said.

Last year, 1.25 million of the total 2.65 million visitors came from countries with visa-free arrangements, with the UK (1.06 million), USA (882,000) and Japan (375,583) topping the list, excluding Australia.

Visa-free travel access

173 - Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom

172 - Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, USA

171 - Belgium, Italy, Netherlands

170 - Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain

168 - New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland

32 - Pakistan, Somalia

31 - Iraq

28 - Afghanistan

(source: 2013 Henley & Partners Visa Restriction Index)

- NZ Herald

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