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What Is The nzETA? All You Need To Know About Why You Need One

globe with new zealand in centre with title text overlay

If you’re planning to visit New Zealand in the near future you might have come across a new travel requirement for visitors of visa waiver countries. Although the nzETA might seem confusing at first, here I’ll break down what is the nzETA and why exactly you need one.

No one wants to deal with the hassle of unnecessarily complicated applications and admin when they’re about to visit a new country. When we decided to head back to New Zealand for a couple of weeks holiday of course our excitement for a fun break was the priority, as it should be!

I’m lucky to have never needed a tourist visa for visiting New Zealand, so it was only after confirming our flights that a niggling thought tickled my mind. A few months ago I received an email from NZ immigration… an email that referred to the nzETA. Thank goodness for that email or I’d have been completely unaware!

“What the hell is an nzETA?!”, I wondered.

When I first came across the nzETA I was a bit baffled. So after a bit of research, I sussed it out. Here, I’ll explain what the nzETA is for and all the info you need so you don’t have to waste time understanding it like me.

hand points to new zealand on globe

So what is the nzETA?

Not a visa, that’s for sure!

The nzETA, or a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority is a permit which shows you are allowed to travel through New Zealand. It was introduced on 1st October 2019 and is intended to increase security at New Zealand borders, manage the increasing number of travellers and reduce waiting time at border control.

You will need to request the nzETA before you board your flight or ship to New Zealand. That means that anyone from a visa waiver country without an nzETA will not be automatically granted a visitor visa on arrival.

Previously, if you’re from a visa waiver country (like the UK and USA) you will get a tourist visa on entry. Basically, your arrival card is your visa.

The nzETA will take just 5 minutes to fill out a request. The processing time can be as little as 10 minutes or up to 72 hours so be sure to submit your request at least a few days before you depart for New Zealand.

My own nzETA was issued literally 2 minutes after I received my application confirmation… It’s so quick!

mountain top views from helicopter

But the website is really confusing…

I agree. The website is contradictory and complicated. If you punch in the details to assess your entry requirements, you could end up being shown the “nzETA”, “visitor visa” OR a “visa waiver visitor visa”. Umm, what?!

Let’s break those down. For argument’s sake, I’m using my home country, the UK, as an example.

UK visitor visas for New Zealand

The below visas require the applicant to have enough money to last for their trip, and proof of onward travel.

  • nzETA:
    • Cost: $9-12 (NZD)
    • Valid for up to 2 years and allows multiple visits
    • Those who need an nzETA must be either:
      • Visitors from visa waiver countries
      • Transit passengers from visa waiver countries or transit visa waiver countries passing through Auckland International Airport
      • All nationality cruise ship passengers
      • Or Australian permanent residents
    • Stay duration depends on visa
    • Must be from visa waiver country
    • To be used alongside visa waiver visitor visa
    • Those staying in NZ (not only in transit) will pay the IVL fee at the same time
  • Visitor Visa:
    •  Cost: $246 (NZD)
    • Includes IVL cost
    • Does NOT require nzETA
    • Stay up to 9 months
    • Can include your partner or children on visa
    • Allows study up to 3 months
  • Visa Waiver Visitor Visa:
    • Cost: $0
    • Requires nzETA
    • Stay up to 3 months or 6 months for UK passport holders
    • Must be from visa waiver country
    • Allows travel in New Zealand as a tourist

Please note that this is really the bare basics for these visas. Take a look at the NZ immigration visa comparison tool to find out more details. Here you’ll find info on what to do after your visa, what you can do on the visa, and when to apply. 

As you can see, the nzETA ONLY applies for those eligible for the visa waiver visitor visa (what a mouthful, hereby shortened to VWVV). All other paid-for visas include the IVL and entry permissions included in the cost.

new zealand and united kingdom passports side by side

Visa Waiver Countries

Remember, they key consideration is what country your passport is from. If you are visiting on a passport from one of these visa waiver countries, you only need an nzETA + VWVV:

Andorra
Argentina
Austria
Bahrain
Belgium
Brazil
Brunei
Bulgaria
Canada
Chile
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia — citizens only
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hong Kong — residents with HKSAR or British National–Overseas passports only
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Japan
Korea — South
Kuwait
Latvia — citizens only
Liechtenstein
Lithuania — citizens only
Luxembourg
Macau — only if you have a Macau Special Administrative Region passport
Malaysia
Malta
Mauritius
Mexico
Monaco
Netherlands
Norway
Oman
Poland
Portugal — if you have the right to live permanently in Portugal
Qatar
Romania
San Marino
Saudi Arabia
Seychelles
Singapore
Slovak Republic
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan — if you are a permanent resident
UAE (United Arab Emirates)
UK (United Kingdom) — if you have the right to reside permanently in the United Kingdom
United States of America — including USA nationals
Uruguay
Vatican City

SO…

You don’t need necessarily need a visitor visa, but you will still need to apply and purchase an nzETA if you’re using the VWVV. UNLESS you plan to stay for up to 9 months and/or wish to study.

This is mostly confusing because the website makes it look like the nzETA is a separate visa… It’s not. Because it’s not a visa. See where the confusion stems from?!

Is the nzETA different to the IVL?

Yes! But they are part of the same initiative to improve tourism in New Zealand.

The nzETA applies to anyone travelling through New Zealand. That includes tourists wishing to stay in NZ from a visa waiver country, anyone in transit through Auckland International Airport on their way to another country from a visa waiver country, and those visiting by cruise ship from all nationalities.

The IVL (International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy) is only for those entering New Zealand. The IVL was introduced from 1st July 2019 to help the New Zealand invest more in sustainable tourism and conservation projects as the numbers of tourists grow rapidly. It means visitors will directly contribute to New Zealand’s tourism infrastructure and protect the natural environment you’ll enjoy.

Your fee will go towards funding Kakapo recovery for the natural habitat of these amazing native birds, enhancing visitor safety at Tongariro National Park, and improving the management and protection of Milford Sound. With the IVL expected to raise over $450 million over the first five years, it’s reassuring to see what plans are in place to use the money.

aoraki/mount cook mountain behind glacial lake

What information do I need to provide for an nzETA?

To request an nzETA you’ll need to provide:

  • You passport details
  • Yes/No answers about your intentions to visit NZ
  • Yes/No answers about your character
  • Credit card details to pay
  • An email address to confirm your nzETA

When you check-in for your journey to New Zealand you might be asked:

  • Proof of funds for the duration of your visit
  • Proof of onward travel out of NZ within the timeframe of your visa

How much does the nzETA and IVL cost?

The cost of both are in NZD.

  • nzETA request via the app: $9
  • nzETA request online: $12
  • IVL: $35

Don’t ask me why the app is $3 cheaper…

As you can see, the maximum you’ll pay to visit New Zealand with the nzETA and IVL is $47. A small price to pay for visiting this awesome country!

**Apply for your nzETA with the official Immigration New Zealand website**

Why Do I Need an nzETA?

All those travelling from visa waiver countries through New Zealand are required to request an nzETA.

The list of 60 countries above includes the UK, USA, and most of Europe.

If you are entering New Zealand, the IVL contributes towards tourism infrastructure and helps to protect the country’s natural environment.

If you’re still unsure if you need an nzETA, try using this nzETA checker tool to assess your situation. Note that you might still need to request one despite your visa and nationality if you:

  • served time in prison
  • have been deported from another country
  • are/were ever involved in criminal or terrorist groups
  • have a serious health problem

hand holds passport over office desk of laptop and globe

What if I don’t need an nzETA?

If you’re not from a visa waiver country, you will need to apply for a visitor visa to be allowed into New Zealand. Australian citizens DO NOT need to request an nzETA, but Australian permanent residents DO.

You also don’t need an nzETA if you’ve applied and received one in the last 2 years. Yippee! If you’re not sure, check your nzETA status here.

You do not need both a visitor visa and an nzETA. 

But I’m from a visa waiver country… Do I really have to pay?

Look, I get it. It’s really annoying. No one likes to find surprise costs and pay for things that they don’t think they need. Of course, “if I’m from a visa waiver country why should I pay?” is a big question that many people have. I was surprised too, especially as it’s so recent. If this had always been the case of course we wouldn’t question it.

There are plenty of countries that require visas to be paid for, The US being a prime example. If you see it as a visa cost more than an obscure government fee, it might help. Afterall, you’re technically entering the country without a visa, so it seems a small price to pay for that advantage.

Check your privilege.

To be so shocked or appalled at the idea of paying to enter a country, remember you probably hold a powerful passport. Your passport privilege, especially from Europe, allows you entry to many many many more countries than a lot of others.

The joy of travel is in itself a privilege. For many of us we don’t even blink twice about crossing borders free of charge. That is something we should all be very thankful for. Many are not so lucky and face immense financial and administrative hassle just to travel.

Honestly, if a fee to visit NZ is putting you off, please reconsider your priorities. New Zealand is an amazing country, and I would have (not necessarily happily) paid for my previous visits if requested. Some experiences are worth more than money, and I believe those available in beautiful Aotearoa are some of them.

For a small fee, you could experience helicopter flights over mountains and whales, hikes across volcanic national parks, witness the imposing southern alps across glassy lakes… and SO much more.

snow on mountain tops in new zealand

Helping where we can

Plus, most of the fee ($35 of the maximum $47) goes towards the IVL. Helping New Zealand cope with an increase in tourist numbers and continue to protect the natural environment can only be a good thing.

As responsible tourists, we must do what we can to minimise our negative impact and carbon footprint on the world. For places as remote as NZ, there’s no question that visiting by plane or ship alone can cause environmental damage. With the NZ government issuing a fee for us, that’s a good start already. Even if you did nothing else you can know you visited New Zealand AND contributed to positive, sustainable projects across the country!

snowy mountain peaks and cloudy sky

What does the internet think?

Fellow Twitter user @Style_Lingua asked followers their thoughts on this recent charge.

Some people are disappointed in the surprise cost as tourism should be free:

@Style_Lingua said: “Why would you want to charge someone who comes to your country to spend money?”

@itsjustbecks_ said: “That’s quite steep considering most people will go for a holiday”

Some people believe the costs will go to a good cause to protect the country:

@simonthego_ said: “If the money is reinvested to protect an awesome country its worth it.”

@listentothewil1 said: “To be fair, unless it’s extortionate and difficult like a Chinese or Russian visa, I’m down with visa fees. Ideally, they contribute towards maintaining tourist attractions and deter huge crowds from visiting the same places all the time. Overtourism can be super damaging.”

@TravellingTom_ said: “It’s annoying if it was free only a couple of weeks ago, but as you’ll be spending a fortnight there, $60 (is that NZD?) isn’t bad at all.”

It seemed the “it’s worth it” camp are stronger in numbers from this small sample. A few other comments noted the different visa costs for entering the UK (which are much much higher) and elsewhere. Others mentioned the frustration that the change is only now and having narrowly missed this charge. Clearly there are some mixed opinions, but in time I imagine it will settle down as it becomes the norm.

Where do you stand?

bottom of globe with new zealand

Tell your friends and family

It’s really important that if you know anyone who is thinking of booking a trip to New Zealand to tell them to request their nzETA (and IVL). If they don’t they might not be allowed to travel to New Zealand.

As you can see, it’s luckily a very simple process once you figure out if you need one! As the nzETA is still very new, I’d suggest telling your fellow travel-loving friends and family about it in case they didn’t see the announcement. It could be easily missed if you’re not looking for it!


I hope this helps you get started with planning your trip to New Zealand with one item of travel admin ticked off the list. Most importantly for your trip is that you have a great time. Getting this out the way will get you that step closer!

What are your thoughts on the nzETA and IVL? Do you think the price is worth paying to visit a country trying to protect its natural beauty? Share your thoughts on the discussion below!

 

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