Immigration NZ has already received more than 200,000 electronic visa applications from travellers in light of new and tighter border control measures which start today.

Keeping tabs on people entering the country with criminal convictions, as well as tightening national security, were key factors in the introduction of the New Zealand electronic travel authority [NZeTA] which is set to affect roughly 1.5 million people from 60 "visa waiver" countries.

Government unveils new work visa rules including reinstating ability for lower-paid workers to bring in families
Work visa shake-up: Migrant workers criticise overhaul
Australia's new visa rules 'will lead to a lot more angst'

Those affected will now have to fill out a form - which takes up to 72 hours to process - before boarding a plane or ship bound for New Zealand.


The NZeTA costs either $9 or $12 and excludes New Zealand and Australian citizens and those who already hold a valid visa for New Zealand

The move is designed to prevent people travelling here who are considered a risk to the country's safety by identifying them well before check-in.

Authorities are looking to identify anyone previously sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 12 months or longer, those considered a threat to national security or who are members of a terrorist group.

Travellers coming by air or cruise ship will be required to answer questions about any criminal convictions and the purpose of their trip.

INZ's policy director Nick Aldous told the Herald today that visa waiver countries, those whose citizens do not need a visa to come to New Zealand, include the UK, the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia and most European countries.

As of this morning, more than 200,000 NZeTAs have been requested since the ETA request system was announced on August 4.

The figure compares to around 105,000 ETA required travellers who are forecast to come to New Zealand in October which demonstrated that traveller awareness and compliance was high, Aldous said.

"We have been working closely with airlines, cruise lines, travel and tourism industry bodies to ensure the sector has the support and knowledge required to implement the NZeTA in a way that minimises the impact on travellers."


More than 30 staff in 21 different locations around the world would also be on hand to help travellers and carriers manage any issues should they arise.

They would be stationed there initially for two weeks, but that would depend on how smoothly the transition was going and whether many travellers were turning up without the new NZeTAs, he said.

"We have also put additional staff into our Border Operations and Identity Services teams and into the Immigration Contact Centre in order to manage any increase in requests and inquiries."

Currently visitors flying to New Zealand only receive light-touch screening at check-in, while cruise ship passengers and crew are not screened at all. But the NZeTA will give authorities early warning of individuals who potentially pose a risk.

People who do not hold an NZeTA would be denied boarding.

An NZeTA would be valid for two years and visitors could come and go as often as they liked within that period.

Despite the change, Aldous said he was confident that all travellers were complying with the new requirement.

The measure will reduce the number of those who are denied entry on arrival - 1173 last year alone - because authorities will be alerted to suspect travellers earlier.