Thousands of overseas visitors face disruption to their Christmas holiday plans if they're not prepared for New Zealand's new travel rules, immigration authorities are warning.
Nick Aldous, director of policy for Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has issued a fresh call to remind travellers to check the requirements before they leave home.
He is also asking Kiwis to make sure any family and friends they are expecting from overseas are aware of new border rules aimed at strengthening the country's security.
Under the rules visitors from 60 'visa waiver' countries now need an NZeTA - a New Zealand electronic travel authority - before being allowed to fly here or come by cruise ship.
Aldous says they may be denied boarding if they don't have an NZeTA: "I'm sure no Kiwis will want this happening to their visitors and it is important they are aware of the new measure so their travel is not disrupted over the coming busy Christmas and summer season."
He says around 22 per cent of travellers from visa-waiver countries come to New Zealand to visit family and friends. More than 220,000 visa-waiver travellers are expected to arrive this month and slightly less in January/February.
The NZeTA was introduced on October 1. It is aimed at tightening and safeguarding New Zealand's border by identifying people considered a risk to the country's safety and security well before they arrive at airport check-in.
It is now a requirement for more than 1.5 million people who visit from the visa waiver countries every year. Citizens of these countries - which include the UK, United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia and most European countries - do not need a visa to come to New Zealand. New Zealand and Australian citizens and those who hold a visa for New Zealand are excluded from the NZeTA requirement.
When requesting an NZeTA travellers are required to answer questions about any criminal convictions and the purpose of their trip. Among those authorities are looking to identify are people sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months or longer and those posing a threat to the public interest.
Aldous says a total of 244 passport holders from 41 countries have so far been refused an NZeTA (to December 10) out of more than 670,000 travellers who have requested one.
Aldous says implementation of the new rule is going smoothly: "Around 90 per cent of people arriving at airports have an NZeTA, the rest have been assisted by our staff, or airline staff, to apply on the spot.
"While more than 99 per cent of requests have been approved we want to avoid any unnecessary disruption to travel over summer, traditionally the peak season for international visitors."
He says previously visitors flying to New Zealand only received light-touch screening at check-in and officials were often only aware of individuals posing a risk once the plane was in the air or when they arrived at their destination.
"Now we get early warning which means we can address the situation earlier to more effectively manage New Zealand's border."
Once approved an NZeTA is valid for two years and visitors will be able to come and go as often as they wish within that period. However travellers will need to reapply once it has expired while anyone whose request is denied can apply for a visitor visa, a process which will allow a more in-depth look at individual circumstances.
Aldous says the NZeTA brings New Zealand in line with 'best practice' systems introduced in other countries. Among those with similar rules are the US (ESTA), Canada (eTA) and Australia (ETA) while the European Union is introducing its own in 2021 (ETIAS).
An NZeTA can only be requested electronically either by downloading a free NZeTA app or by completing an online form on the government website, immigration.govt.nz.
Requests cost $9 (via the app) or $12 (through the website). At the same time travellers also pay the $35 International Visitor Conservation and Tourism levy.
Aldous says it can take up to 72 hours to process an application and for this reason he advises people to submit their requests well in advance of travel. No hard copies are needed but if people forget or are unaware of the need to do so, they can still go online at the airport and, in most cases, should receive approval in time.
He says travellers should ensure they are using the official mobile app or the government website to submit their request and avoid using unauthorised third party websites.
For more information go to: www.immigration.govt.nz/nzeta