Sunday, August 11, 2019

When you visit

The video above is a new TV commercial from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) talking about the NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority), something that all foreign visitors will need to get before travelling to New Zealand, beginning on 1 October 2019. Many countries, including the USA, already have a similar requirement, so, in that sense, New Zealand is just joining in. What these programmes all have in common is that they provide an easy way to exclude someone before they get on the plane—and, potentially, having to be deported. It’s good to see INZ promoting awareness of this here in New Zealand, since many of us have family and friends overseas, but it’s important that they promote it overseas, too.

This new programme applies to people from “visa waiver countries”, that is, countries whose citizens can travel without first needing to apply for and obtain a vistor’s permit/visa. The agreements are usually reciprocal, but not always. Some countries are more welcoming than others, too: The USA allows people from 38 countries to enter the USA without first obtaining a visitor’s permit/visa, and New Zealand permits people from 60 countries.

The US programme has several requirements. A traveller to the USA must:
  • Have a biometric passport (most are nowadays)
  • Have an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), which is like New Zealand’s NZeTA.
  • The passport must be valid for six months beyond the expected date of departure (this is also pretty standard)
  • A ticket on a commercial carrier, either to return home or to travel onwards, before the time limit for a tourist ends. This, too, is a common requirement in some form or other.
What all this means is that New Zealand followed all the same procedures apart from the NZeTA, and now it will have that, too. Naturally, there’s a cost to that, and, naturally, that’s not the only new cost for visitors.

The NZeTA will cost NZ$9 if purchased using the free App, or NZ$12 if purchased online (today, that’s about $US5.82 and US$7.76, respectively). The USA’s ESTA costs US$14 (today, about NZ$21.64). Both countries say to allow 72 hours for approval, though it's usually faster. Australian citizens don’t need an NZeTA, nor do we need their Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) to visit their country, due to specific bilateral agreements.

New Zealand has also enacted an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy, which is intended to raise funds to maintain infrastructure and the natural environment put under strain by the growing numbers of tourists from overseas. The fee for that is NZ$35 (today, US$24.62). The fee is paid when someone applies for their NZeTA (or their visa, if they’re not from a visa waiver country).

As I noted in a recent AmeriNZ Podcast episode, this is the first time in more than two decades that I’ve actually seen a concrete benefit from being a dual national. Because I’m a US citizen, I don’t need the ESTA, and because I’m a NZ citizen, I don’t need an NZeTA. There’s actually a third benefit: Because I’m a NZ citizen, I don’t need an ETA to visit Australia, but I would if I was just a US citizen. Sadly, I don’t actually get much benefit from this reality because I don’t travel overseas very much at all.

International travel is becoming much more complicated all the time. While at least some of that was probably inevitable, it would be nice if countries figured out a way to streamline these requirements to make it easier for travellers. At least New Zealand allows people to pay for their NZeTA and the IVL at the same time. I guess.

Because I talk about this sort of stuff on this blog and on my podcast, I’m probably a bit more aware of these changes than most people are. That’s why I think it’s good to see INZ promoting awareness of the NZeTA here in New Zealand. But it’s also important that they promote it overseas, too. I hope they do, but maybe these days travellers just need to expect to do more research about travel requirements.

That, and remember to not pack too much and make their suitcases too heavy.

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