Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

Travel tips - travel to the United States

The government of the United States of America (USA) enforces a strict entry regime. New Zealanders are at risk of being denied entry upon arrival if they fail to comply with visa requirements. Intending travellers are urged to contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States of America to enquire about their own specific circumstances, well in advance of travel.

The policy of the United States of America with regard to all visa and overstaying violations is one of “zero tolerance”. Even if a visitor stays only one day beyond their visa expiry, detention may result. If arrested this could include imprisonment, deportation and prohibited entry to the USA for up to 10 years.

All visitors to the United States of America are required to provide their full address while in the United States in advance of travel. This information will be collected at check-in by the airline carrier. The address must contain the postal code.

When you receive a new passport, ensure that you have updated your passport details in your frequent flyer account and with your travel agent. Travellers have encountered secondary inspection by border officials and delays when their old passport number has been used on travel documents.

If joining a cruise ship or picking up a rental car on arrival, further information on requirements may be found on US Customs and Border Protection.

Visa Waiver Programme
The Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) permits New Zealand citizens to enter the USA for business and tourism purposes for up to 90 days without a visa. Under USA legislation, travellers entering the USA under the visa waiver programme are not eligible to change their visa status. New Zealanders who do not qualify for the VWP (eg, students, journalists) will continue to need visas in order to transit or visit the USA. New Zealanders planning to use the VWP are urged to check that they meet the requirements to do so.

Travellers entering the USA under the VWP and planning to cross a border to a contiguous territory or adjacent island (eg. Canada, Mexico, Caribbean islands, etc) and return directly back to the USA should be aware that this exit time may count toward the 90 day period under which they were originally admitted into the USA under the VWP. Travellers should be aware that re-admission under the visa waiver cannot be guaranteed and decisions are at the discretion of US Immigration Officers.

For people planning to work while in the USA a work visa is required and you should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States of America to confirm entry requirements. If you gain employment while on a visitor visa this will breach the conditions of the visa and there is a high risk of arrest and detention.

The entry requirements have changed for certain international travellers required to make transit stops in the USA, and who do not qualify to enter the USA under the VWP. In some circumstances a transit visa may be required. Well in advance of travel, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States of America to enquire about the specific circumstances that apply.

All travellers entering the USA under the Visa waiver programme must have a machine-readable passport.

New Zealand citizens travelling to, or through, the USA who do not hold a machine-readable passport must either:

  • Obtain a machine-readable passport or,
  • Obtain a US entry visa. In this situation, keep your current non machine-readable passport and apply for a US entry visa, this may require that you attend an interview with at the US Consulate General in Auckland. Further information on how to apply for a US entry visa is provided on the US Embassy in New Zealand website.

ESTA - Electronic System for Travel Authorisation
Nationals of all Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) countries require ESTA authorisation prior to travelling to the United States under VWP. Travellers from VWP counties, including New Zealand, are required to pay an operational and travel promotion fee when applying for ESTA. The total cost for a new or renewed ESTA will be US$14.

For more information and link to the ESTA application see the US Embassy in New Zealand website.

Neither the New Zealand Embassy, New Zealand Consulates or the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade can assist New Zealand Citizens with visa or other US immigration problems. If you have any questions you should contact the US Consulate General in Auckland before departure.

Once in the USA, contact the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BOIS) for advice on 1-800-375-5283.

Useful contacts
Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services - United States.
New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs - Passports.

 

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