A leaked draft executive order for US President Donald Trump prompted a false scare that the days of visa-free travel for New Zealanders to the US were over.

The order was leaked to the Huffington Post and Los Angeles Times. Its main provisions included suspending the refugee programme and immigration from countries where terrorism was a concern while reviews were undertaken.

However, it also proposed suspending the Visa Interview Waiver Program — a system under which people renewing some kinds of US visas, or children or the elderly do not need to appear in person for an interview.

That was initially misreported in some media as the Visa Waiver Programme which allows people from New Zealand and 37 other countries to visit the US for tourism or business without a visa for up to 90 days. An online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is all that is required.


The Visa Waiver Programme rules were tightened in 2015 to exclude anyone who had visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since 2011.

The executive order does not address the visa waiver programme and primarily focuses on preventing people with terrorist links getting into America.

However, the suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Programme would make life more difficult for some New Zealanders who did have work or other visas for the US — meaning they would no longer be able to renew them electronically or by mail and would instead have to travel to the US consulate in Auckland for an interview.

A spokesperson for the US Embassy in New Zealand said questions on any anticipated Executive Orders should be directed to the White House.