Most international travellers visiting New Zealand will soon be required to obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) which, while functioning as a US ESTA-style visa waiver rather than a visa per se, will all the same be mandatory before entering the country.
The New Zealand ETA will be necessary for visa-free entry to New Zealand as of October 1 2019, with applications open from July 1 2019.
Australian citizens travelling to New Zealand on an Australian passport will be exempt from the ETA requirement, owing to the strong bilateral deal between the two nations.
However, permanent residents of Australia who are not Australian citizens and thus hold another country's passport will need to obtain an ETA – as will visitors from other visa-waiver countries like the United States, Canada and the UK.
Most travellers applying for an ETA will also need to pay the Government’s new International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy as part of the process, although that additional cost will be waived for Australian permanent residents.
New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority, Tourism Levy pricing
The cost of obtaining an ETA will be NZ$9 when completed via a soon-to-be-launched mobile app, or NZ$12 when completed online.
The New Zealand ETA will be valid for two years or until the traveller’s passport expires, whichever comes first.
A single ETA covers multiple entries into New Zealand for business or tourism – you don’t need to reapply with every journey, or separately for holidays and business trips – although passengers in international transit will still require an ETA, even if they don’t cross the border into NZ.
For example, passengers flying with Air New Zealand from Sydney to Chicago via Auckland would require an ETA, as their journey transits New Zealand, unless exempted from the requirement by travelling on a passport from Australia or New Zealand.
Separately, the country’s new International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) sits at NZ$35 and will be collected at the same time at the ETA charge, bringing the total cost of obtaining visa-free travel authorisation to NZ$44 via the mobile app, or NZ$47 online.
Travellers won’t need to pay the IVL again until they need to apply for a new ETA.
As a reminder, Australian permanent residents won’t be asked to pay the IVL, keeping the cost of the ETA at NZ$9-12, with citizens of Australia and New Zealand exempted from both charges.
Why are the ETA and IVL being introduced?
As travellers visiting New Zealand under visa-waiver arrangements don’t apply for a pre-arranged visa, the New Zealand Government only learns of their identity “once they are en route to New Zealand,” says Immigration New Zealand.
“We are unable to screen these travellers in advance for border and immigration risks,” the Department explains, adding that “the Electronic Travel Authority aims to deal with these issues and is part of wider government efforts to make border crossing as seamless as possible.”
As for the pricier International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy, the NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment shares that it “ensures our international visitors contribute to the infrastructure they use and help protect the natural environment they enjoy.”
When the New Zealand ETA website and mobile app do become available, travellers should ensure they’re applying via these official channels to protect their personal information and to avoid being overcharged, given that many unofficial websites already target travellers seeking to apply for the similar US ESTA and Canadian eTA.